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The Patriots’ Split Defensive Coaching Situation Is Both Uncertain And Promising

While a lot of the attention of Patriots fans and media remains on the coaching uncertainty in the offensive side and who calls plays, the defensive side of the ball also remains without a singular clear coordinator. We take a look at the key players in the defensive coaching staff and who could be taking the mantle.

Can Belichick Blood Yield Belichick Genius In Steve Belichick?

The initial read on Steve Belichick’s resume is: what is he doing here? His very first coaching experience was under Bill on the Patriots. His leadup to his role was a high school player stint as linebacker, fullback and tight end, a four-year lacrosse career at Rutgers, and a small stint as long snapper at Rutgers before joining the Patriots’ coaching staff.

However, he has been growing into his role. Having been a coaching assistant for four years, coaching the secondary for four years, he enters his third year as linebackers coach, and has therefore seen the defense as a whole. In his time defensively coaching, he has overseen some heavy defensive success, including a super bowl win in 2018 where the Patriots limited the NFL-leading Rams offense to just three points. The next season, after the departure of Brian Flores, Steve took a large portion of the playcalling duties for New England’s 2019 defense, which ended up being one of the best statistical defenses in not just Patriots’ history, but even NFL history.

Now he has been splitting coaching duties with Matt Patricia and Jerrod Mayo, and with the transition of Patricia to offense, he will be an even larger focal point of the defense, and likely the main playcaller. His lack of playing experience and prior coaching experience is certainly a concern, but his variety of experience in the Patriots system itself is matched by few, if not none.

Can Mayo The Patriot Coach Match The Legend Of Mayo The Patriot Player?

As a player, Jerod had pretty much everything one could want in a linebacker. He was a big hitter with excellent tackling technique. He was also a versatile player who could get it done in both the run and pass game. Most importantly, he was also a cerebral player with an awareness of the progression of a play and one who was effective at reading the offense. This all led him to an impressive career stat line of 803 tackles, eight fumbles, three interceptions and 11 sacks.

Along with his great grasp of all linebacker fundamentals, his extraordinary dedication to film sessions as a player and his leadership in the locker room all comprised a skill set well suited for coaching, especially in a system where he spent so much time. He has been coaching linebackers in New England since 2019, and has done a good job helping the Patriots’ linebackers with their fundamentals and strategy, but is still settling into developing a full understanding of defensive play calling. With a very talented group of linebackers to work with this year, but a group that is more suited to today’s less physical, faster era, Mayo will have a large role in making the most out of them, as he starts pivoting towards more general defensive coaching.

With acquisitions like Mack Wilson impressing with their speed and awareness, and the improvement of already signed Patiots in Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings, the Patriots look to build a strong group in a position that was a struggle for them last year.

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What’s The Best Way To Use These Two To Build A Competent Unit?

Neither Jerod nor Steve have the complete skillset for a defensive coordinator. But together, they can make a very strong unit. Jerod can contribute the perspectives of a former player and Patriot and work hands-on with the defense, while Steve can focus on the bigger picture playcalling. Since both have the majority of their experience coaching linebackers, cornerbacks coach Nick Pellegrino will be crucial in working with the rookies, and defensive line coach Demarcus Covington will be a key part of generating a pass rush.

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