The New England Patriots could benefit from adding more offensive firepower this offseason. But unless they plan on scoring 48 points in a playoff game, they may want to prioritize defensive upgrades.
Former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison is in that camp after watching the Buffalo Bills steamroll his old team 47-17 in the AFC Wild Card Round last month. That defeat struck a nerve with Harrison and left him with a clear idea of what New England lacks on defense.
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"It hurt to see the Patriots defense just get run over, just get pushed, just get bullied," Harrison said in a 1-on-1 with our Tom E. Curran on a new episode of the Patriots Talk Podcast. "And I'm like, where is that guy? Where is that stud in the secondary? Where is that linebacker? Where is that tough guy up front who's going to say, 'You know what? I'm going to just come up and pop Josh Allen and knock the living piss out of him so we can send a message.' They don't have that guy."
Harrison believes the Patriots should target a defender who can send that message but also improve the team's speed -- perhaps Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean, who won the Butkus Award as the nation's best linebacker for the national champion Bulldogs.
"If I'm Coach Belichick, I'm getting younger at linebacker, I'm getting a little younger in the secondary, but I'm bringing an enforcer in," Harrison said. "A guy who can hit in the secondary, but also an athletic guy like Nakobe Dean from Georgia -- an athletic linebacker who can go from sideline to sideline, who can blitz, who can just take over the defense. That's what they need."
To Harrison's point, the Patriots have three linebackers on the wrong side of 30 -- Dont'a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins -- and their lack of speed at the position was a big reason why they ranked 22nd in the NFL in run defense last season (and allowed 174 rushing yards to the Bills in their playoff loss).
Dean is projected as a potential top-20 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, so he may not make it to New England at No. 21. But even if the Patriots miss out on Dean, the team should be targeting players of his ilk via the draft, free agency or trade.
"If I'm Coach Belichick, I'm focusing on bringing in some of those dogs," Harrison said. "I've got to get me a dog up in that huddle. Somebody who's going to grab somebody, somebody who's not afraid to get in everybody's face, hell, somebody who might take a late hit and it might be 15 yards, but so what, it might send a message. They need that guy."
For more of Harrison's conversation with Curran on his reaction to the Brian Flores' lawsuit and Tom Brady's NFL farewell, subscribe to the Patriots Talk Podcast or watch it on YouTube below.