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NEN Xtra: Can the Patriots’ secondary be as lethal in 2020?

Patriots: New England Nation

The 2019 Patriots defense was nothing short of spectacular—the top ranked squad in the entire league. Although it didn’t lead to a championship, this was the side of the ball that won Bill Belichick his 17th AFC East title in 19 seasons.

You have your Vince Wilfork’s on the defensive line, and your Tedy Bruschi’s and Mike Vrabel’s knocking guys down as linebackers—but the most reliable unit across the years have been the secondary.

As part of that 2019 defensive unit, the secondary were the reason they let up the least amount of touchdowns through the air, the second-least yards through the air, and the most interceptions in the league. Not to mention the league’s defensive MVP was handed to none other than Stephon Gilmore.

It’s an elite unit, but in 2020 it’s a unit without a veteran leader—making it that much more important for this flashy squad to step up in 2020.

With the losses of big names like Kyle Van Noy an Jamie Collins to free agency, Belichick an the crew did what they do best and drafted linebackers and made moves to fill those voids. Unknowingly upon the players reporting to camp this week, they would be starting the season without Dont’a Hightower and safety, Patrick Chung.

FOXBORO, MA – DECEMBER 30: Patrick Chung #25 of the New England Patriots breaks up a pass in front of Armon Binns #19 of the Miami Dolphins in the second half during the game at Gillette Stadium on December 30, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Chung’s absence leaves yet another hole to fill in the secondary as a leader and big play ability.

But guess who’s still back there—the McCourty brothers, and Stephon Gilmore. That’s plenty enough to build around and learn from. After free agent signs in Adrian Phillips from LA and Cody Davis from Jacksonville, the depth grows. And then a young stud in Kyle Dugger gets drafted.

Most people don’t know who Dugger is—a lot of that because he played Division II ball at Lenoir-Rhyne. The upside is, he has fresh legs and has a chip on his shoulder.

Look for this unit to come out hungry and ready to ball. You don’t win championships without a defense and this is going to be the unit to glue that defense back together—even though it looks depleted on paper.

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