Inside linebacker has been the source of plenty of roster turnover this offseason in New England. The team has seen a number of veterans depart recently, leaving them with much uncertainty amongst their current options at the position.
The losses of Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy left the Patriots with a significant number of snaps to fill in the middle of their defense. That made LB as a position many expected would be a draft target for New England; however, they elected not to add rookies with any of their selections, and even declined to sign any UDFAs to add competition for roster spots.
As a result, the team is using the offseason to re-order its new depth chart at the position. ESPN’s Mike Reiss reports that Raekwon McMillan has been one of the “top” linebackers in practice, taking starter’s reps alongside Ja’Whaun Bentley. The former signed with New England after brief stints with the Dolphins and Raiders. A torn ACL – already the second of his career – prevented him from seeing the field this past campaign. New England still extended him, though, paving the way for what could be a significant role in 2022.
Other linebackers slated for notable playing time include Mack Wilson, whom the Patriots acquired in a trade with the Browns during the early stages of free agency. He has rotated amongst McMillan and Bentley, seeing time with Josh Uche. Where the latter (a 2020 second-rounder drafted as a pass-rusher) lines up will remain a key storyline into the summer. Reiss notes that Uche’s precise fit in the LB corps “looks like a moving target,” given his usage in spring practices.
A veteran addition would come as little surprise at this point, given New England’s lack of known commodities at linebacker. If they elect to maintain the status quo, however, the position could provide one of the most intriguing training camp competitions on the roster.