Roster: Lawrence Guy (10th year), Beau Allen (7th), Adam Butler (4th), John Simon (8th), Deatrich Wise Jr. (4th), Chase Winovich (2nd), Byron Cowart (2nd), Derek Rivers (4th), Nick Coe (rookie), Tashawn Bower (3rd), Bill Murray (rookie), Nick Thurman (1st), Courtney Wallace (rookie)
Key Additions: Beau Allen (FA/Buccaneers)
Key Losses: DL coach Bret Bielema (Giants), Danny Shelton (FA/Lions)
Projected Starters: Lawrence Guy, Beau Allen, John Simon
Biggest Question: Beyond underrated steady veteran Lawrence Guy, who will step up consistently fill out the defensive line – both in terms of run stuffing and pass rush?
Key Stat: 61 – The total number of tackles for both Lawrence Guy and now-departed teammate Danny Shelton a year ago, tying for third-most on the team.
Overview: Over the last couple years, the strengths of the impressive Patriots defense have been back to front. The unit is led by an elite secondary and has been bolstered by a veteran group of playmaking linebackers, especially last fall. The defensive line has been OK, but also sort of along for the ride. The only real standout on the front the last couple years has been veteran defensive tackle Lawrence Guy, who’s been the centerpiece of the front having started 46 of the 48 games he’s played in New England. Guy is solid against the run and contributes in the pass rush. He doesn’t get much attention, but he’s been a reliable cog in the defensive machine. Even as he hits the age of 30 in his 10th NFL season, he’ll be expected to be a key contributor once again. But Bill Belichick must find others to fill out the front. Veteran addition Beau Allen will likely be penciled in to fill the void of Danny Shelton’s departure, but as Mike Pennel proved last summer past defensive line success elsewhere doesn’t’ guarantee a smooth fit in Foxborough. Allen has never started more than eight games in season and didn’t make a single start in Tampa Bay last fall. Is he ready to fill the complementary role next to Guy that’s gone to Shelton and Malcom Brown in the past? We’re gonna find out. Adam Butler is a complementary option in his fourth season, the former undrafted player mostly used in a rotational role in passing situations. He finished third on the team with a career-high 6 sacks a year ago but may not be capable of much more of an expanded role. In New England’s varied fronts, Simon is a reliable edge player who started 12 of the 16 games he played a year ago. With fellow versatile edge options Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins having moved on in free agency, Simon could be leaned on even more heavily in 2020. Deatrich Wise was projected as a possible camp cut by some last August, but the veteran former fourth-round pick hung around to start three of 14 games played, though he only played 23 percent of defensive snaps. Both Wise and fellow 2017 pick Derek Rivers are in make-or-break summers in New England. Rivers has spent two seasons on IR and really has yet to do much as a former third-round pick hampered by health issues. Elsewhere on the edge, Chase Winovich will be looking to build on a somewhat impressive rookie year that saw the third-round pick notch 5.5 sacks playing nearly 30 percent of defensive snaps. Byron Cowart played in just five games as an undrafted rookie last fall, but could be in the battle for a role on the defensive front with a solid Year 2 jump. Once seen as a rising prospect at Auburn, undrafted rookie Nick Coe certainly has a chance to compete for a roster spot at the very least.
Power Rating (1-5): **
More of a journeyman before finding a home in New England, Lawrence Guy has been the most underrated player on the Patriots defense over the last few years. Now, he needs some other guys around him to step up and solidify the defensive front.