What's One Benefit of Patriots Having Young Linebacker Corps? 'Moldable'
The New England Patriots' linebacker room took some big hits over the last five months. They lost Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts to free agency. Then last week long-time Patriot Dont'a Hightower opted out of the 2020 season. Now the team is seemingly left with young talent to fill the voids left by those experienced veterans. That's not good news, especially for a team trying to replicate the defensive success they had in 2019.
But even though there are some disadvantages of having a young, relatively inexperience linebacking corps, inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo does see one advantage of having so many young guys at that position.
"One advantage of having a young group is that they are very moldable," Mayo said Friday during his video conference with the media. Right now they come in and they really don't know much. And I've always liked that, to have those young guys that are willing to try just about anything. Sometimes the older players kind of get stuck in their ways, especially players that have done something a certain way at a high level, you try to tweak that and it's kind of a little bit more difficult. I would say with these younger guys they come in with a willing attitude, very moldable, you can work on technique. They haven't really been coached at this level, so I definitely look forward to the challenge and the opportunity."
With all of the aforementioned players out of the lineup this year, that means the six-time Super Bowl champions will rely on the likes of second-round pick Josh Uche, third-round pick Anfernee Jennings and third-year linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley a bit more than originally projected. Players like Cassh Maluia - who the team drafted in the sixth round this year and weren't expected to have anything more than a situational role in 2020, if that - are going to have to chip in a bit more as well. Other guys like De'Jon "Skoota" Harris, who is an undrafted rookie that was on the roster bubble before the opt outs occurred, seemingly has a spot on the roster that is his until he loses it now.
There's no doubt that some of the drafted talent New England brought in this year can develop into quality NFL players. But it remains to be seen how quickly those players can get to that point.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, just like every other team in the league, they don't have very much time before Week 1 to mold those types of players. Teams are currently going through the strength and conditioning part of training camp and won't put on pads for the first time until at least Aug. 16. From there they will have about three weeks to hash out their roster, create a scheme that works for their team, and also help develop that young talent so they can be at least somewhat prepared to hit the field and contribute in Week 1.
With the uncertainty that lies ahead and the adjustments already made to the preseason due to the pandemic, the expectation is that growing pains will be relevant for New England during the first month of the regular season. Again, just like every other team in the league, there is going to be a bit of trial and error when they hit the field for the first time. Because of that, no one should expect the month of September to bring about a high level of play for any team in the NFL.
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