But for Bill Belichick and his team to compete, other players at key positions will need to put forth MVP-like seasons. Well, impactful seasons at the very least.
With the NFL’s last 10 MVP’s coming at the quarterback position, NFL.com put together a list of each team’s non-QB MVP candidates. The obvious choice for the Patriots was sack master Matthew Judon. Who could argue with that?
Patriots have an elite pass rusher in Matt Judon
The man with the red sleeves has been a monster over the last two seasons with the Patriots. Not only has he led the team with sacks, but he has also emerged as one of the leaders and spokesmen in the locker room. His presence and dominance have made players along the defensive line better like Josh Uche and Deatrich Wise Jr.
In other words, Judon has been an explosive player under Belichick, but he will be the one player on defense opposing teams will gameplan against. Still, it is hard to disagree with this choice because of his attributes.
NFL.com writer Eric Edholm writes:
"“If the Patriots are to win this season, it will be because this veteran unit thrives as it did a few years ago, making game-changing plays on the regular.Judon was the Patriots’ best defender the past two seasons. He’s been a bit streaky from time to time, but he’s explosive, aggressive and instinctive. His pass-rush effectiveness was at an all-time high last season, but even if he doesn’t rack up 15.5 sacks again, Judon can impact games in a number of ways and must be accounted for by opposing offenses every game.”"
Whether it is timely sacks or forcing quarterbacks into bad decisions, Judon will be key to the defense having success in 2023. However, there is a rebuttal here. There is another player emerging on the defensive side who will be more of a game changer on the defensive side.
Patriots emerging defensive back primed to shine in 2023
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The hard-hitting defensive back out of Lenoir-Rhyne has broken out over the last two seasons as one of the team’s most reliable tacklers with a total of 92 tackles in 2022, and also a player with a knack of sniffing out turnovers. Over the last two seasons he has a total of 7 interceptions from the safety position and has 10 tackles for a loss.
In all, Dugger’s instincts on the football field are getting better by the season which will allow Belichick to use him even more in that safety/linebacker hybrid role. Entering a contract year, Dugger has a major opportunity ahead of him and he will be put in position to shine.
So, while Judon is the easy choice here, Dugger is a player a bit underrated around the league. But mark our words here, by mid-season, the entire NFL will be aware of who this New England Patriots defender is.