The process of rebuilding their linebacker group did surprisingly not see the New England Patriots spend a selection in last week’s draft at the position. Instead, the team is headed into organized team activities with basically the same group of players it already had on its roster after the first week of free agency.
The Patriots do not appear to be worried, though, at least publicly. Director of player personnel Matt Groh recently expressed his confidence in the current linebacker room, as did trade acquisition Mack Wilson shortly thereafter.
The latest to join the chorus is inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo.
“Thinking about the guys we have in the room, we have some guys that can rush and cover. And so, we have some guys that Pats Nation, they haven’t even heard of probably,” he said during a recent appearance on the Pats from the Past podcast.
“That, to me, is the exciting part. That is the exciting part — the unknown. And we’re going to go into it as a unit, we’re gonna go into it together.”
Following Terez Hall’s release last week, the Patriots have 10 linebackers under contract. The edge group consists of Pro Bowler Matthew Judon and youngsters Josh Uche and Ronnie Perkins. The off-the-ball personnel is headed by Ja’Whaun Bentley and the aforementioned Mack Wilson, as well as Raekwon McMillan and Cameron McGrone. It also includes Anfernee Jennings, Jahlani Tavai and Harvey Langi.
Compared to last year, the Patriots are missing some long-time cornerstones of the unit. Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins remain unsigned in free agency, while Kyle Van Noy was released and recently signed a deal with the Los Angeles Chargers.
The absence of these experienced players, however, does not appear to be a problem. In fact, Mayo sees it as an opportunity more than anything else.
“Even right now, not having some of those older guys in the room is beneficial for the younger guys because the older guys would be bored out of their minds with some of the things we’re talking about,” he said. “At the same time, it’s forcing the younger guys to really take that step forward, and really grow and develop without being hindered by any other guy’s experience.”
While there is no guarantee any additional moves will be made to address the depth at the position, it seems the Patriots are willing to start the preparation for the 2022 season with who they currently have in the room. Time will tell whether or not it can live up to the expectations.