Speed is important, especially in today's NFL, and there's one area on defense where the New England Patriots are lacking that athleticism.
In an interview with WEEI's "Merloni and Fauria" on Thursday, former Patriots safety and current NBC Sports analyst Rodney Harrison admitted the Patriots linebackers "are slow".
“You’re spot on. It doesn’t seem like they’re slow -- and I love those guys and I have so much respect for those guys -- but yeah, they are slow," Harrison said. "When you start watching LaVonte David, you start watching Devin (White) move and blitz and move from sideline to sideline, it’s a night and day difference.
"And that was the thing that really stood out to me. I’m like, 'Look how fast and athletic Tampa Bay linebackers look.’ And the Patriots linebackers -- the defense just looks slow. It’s always kind of looked like that, and it starts with those backers, man. Those guys have experience and things like that, but that’s something the Patriots definitely need to upgrade a little bit moving forward. That’s speed.”
The Patriots have brought back veteran linebacker Jamie Collins for a third stint with the team. He could make his debut Sunday when the Patriots play the 1-3 Texans at NRG Stadium in Houston. Collins is a decent player and has plenty of experience, but he's not a super-athletic guy, either.
New England's linebackers haven't been awful this year, to be fair. Matthew Judon has been one of the team's best players after signing a large contract with the Pats in free agency. Second-year linebacker Josh Uche has shown flashes of exciting potential at times as well.
A boost in speed at linebacker would help the Patriots, though, especially against the run, where they're giving up four yards per carry and 122 yards per game.