Tag Archives: Christian Gonzalez

Patriots Roster Breakdown: Defense, Specialists, and Special Teams

Earlier, we reviewed the Patriots’ offensive roster. Now, it’s time to see how the Patriots’ roster looks on defense, with expectations and nuggets for each player. The Patriots are set to have a very athletic and young defense that will be relied on to win games throughout the season. The offense should be much improved, but the defense should be one of the best in the league.

Patriots Roster Breakdown: Defense

Photo Credit: Carly Mackler/Getty Images

Defensive Line

Christian Barmore

There might not be a more critical piece to the defense than Christian Barmore. Barmore has shown his ability — when he has been able to stay on the field. He has top-end ability to push the interior of the pocket and can win quickly at the point of attack. Pairing his interior pressure with elite edge rushers such as Josh Uche and Matt Judon would launch this defense into a new stratosphere. That newfound height for this defense will depend on Barmore’s ability to stay on the field.

Keion White

The Patriots’ second-round pick, Keion White, was all business on draft day, and has continued that attitude throughout his short Patriots tenure. In his preseason debut, he was all over the field and figures to play a significant portion of snaps this season. White was initially thought to be a situational role player, but may have forced himself into a more prominent role with his dominant display throughout the summer. White figures to be a bit of a tweener, playing inside on passing downs and on the edge in early downs. He may put up flashy numbers without any of the expected flashy show.

Deatrich Wise Jr.

Deatrich Wise, a defensive captain, enters his seventh year with the team. He has improved every year in his career, with 2022 bringing a career high in sacks and tackles. However, more than half of those sacks came in a single game against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens. Wise again figures to be a prominent piece of the New England defense and should rarely leave the field.

Davon Godchaux

If Barmore is the quick interior penetrator, then Davon Godchaux is the anchor in the middle. Entering his third year with the team, Godchaux projects to play on early downs, primarily as a run stuffer. He has shown some ability to rush the passer and would be best served in a rotation on the interior.

Lawrence Guy

Lawrence Guy initially stayed away from team activities this summer before reporting for training camp, due to reported discontent over his contract. Guy still has two years left on his contract and could be a potential candidate to be moved at the trade deadline, depending on needs elsewhere on the roster. Before we get to that point, he will provide a level, veteran presence for the entire defense, who plays hard and goes about things the “Patriot Way.”

Daniel Ekuale

Daniel Ekuale is a depth piece on the defensive line who has shown flashes in the previous two seasons with New England. With the team moving on from Carl Davis, Ekuale should see an uptick in snaps. He may put together a sneaky good season for those watching closely.

Sam Roberts

Roberts enters his second year with the team after being selected in the sixth round out of Northwest Missouri State. He had flashes of good and bad throughout the preseason and survived the dreaded roster bubble. Roberts projects to be a frequent gameday inactive, but plays with a high motor if he gets the chance.


Matt Judon

The household name on the Patriots’ defense after Devin McCourty’s retirement, and for good reason. Judon has 28 sacks in his two seasons in New England and will look to add to that total in 2023. The pass rush stalwart should again be amongst the league leaders in sacks, and will benefit from a healthy Barmore and a dominant pass-rush partner in Uche. Judon will need to stop his late season disappearing act if the Patriots want to make a postseason push.

Josh Uche

Josh Uche finally realized his potential in year three after being highlighted as a potential star in his other two seasons. The undersized linebacker out of Michigan is responsible for coordinating the Patriots pass rush on the field. Uche plays with great speed, and has paired it with a tenacious bull rush to complete his game. Uche is entering a contract season and will look to put together a season that gets him premier pass rush money in the offseason.

Anfernee Jennings

Anfernee Jennings caught a lot of eyes with his all-out play in the preseason finale. Throwing up mid-play and still making the tackle will do that for you. Jennings has struggled to get on the field since being a third-round pick out of Alabama in 2020. If Uche and Judon are the Patriots’ edge pass rushers, Jennings is the edge setter in the run game. He provides a strong anchor and should not often lose contain — if he isn’t guessing during the play. Jennings may find himself a frequent spot on the gameday inactive list simply due to the numbers and abilities elsewhere.


Ja’Whaun Bentley

Ja”Whaun Bentley has improved his play every year in the league and has rounded into a do-it-all linebacker. He broke into the league as a downhill run stuffer with the Patriots, but found himself playing a majority of snaps last season. Bentley is a field general in the middle of the field and should put together solid, but not flashy, numbers in 2023.

Jahlani Tavai

Jahlani Tavai may be the best part of the most recent Patricia experiment. After following Patricia to New England from Detroit, Tavai has become a consistent producer on the New England defense, and was awarded a contract extension last year. Tavai will play primarily on the early downs or in bigger personnel packages.

Mack Wilson Sr.

Mack Wilson enters his second year with the Patriots and could be an answer to the influx of athletic quarterbacks in the league. He is an undersized linebacker who shows tremendous play speed and effort. His role should grow as he gets more comfortable in the defense. Mack could find playing time through a QB-spy role against more agile quarterbacks.


Christian Gonzalez

The Patriots first-round pick has been touted as an absolute steal since draft night. Viewed by many as a top ten pick, Gonzalez fell due to positional need elsewhere in the league, as well as concerns about his lack of physicality. Gonzalez has gotten a lot of run with the Patriots’ veterans throughout the summer and should be a game one starter. It’s a disappointment the team didn’t bequeath him with number 24, as he has a superb chance of continuing the Patriots legacy of lockdown corners.  

Jonathan Jones

Jonathan Jones was the Patriots slot corner for a number of years before transitioning to the boundary last season. He put together an overall solid season, but struggled when matched up one-on-one with the league’s premier receivers. Jones returned to New England after turning down more money elsewhere. His health bears watching, as Jones has been dealing a nagging injury throughout the preseason. There is quite a drop off from Jones to the next boundary corner on the New England roster.

Marcus Jones

The do-it-all rookie last year was the most exciting part of Patriots football in 2022. Marcus Jones now returns with a year of experience and an All-Pro season under his belt. Despite his small size, Marcus Jones can lay the wood and is electric when he gets the ball in his hands. The last player before Marcus Jones to have a receiving, punt return, and interception return touchdown in their rookie season? Deion Sanders. Marcus jones should put up another highlight reel season in 2023.

Jack Jones

Jack Jones was a pleasant surprise last year with his aggressive style of play and sticky man coverage tendencies. He proved to have knack for the ball and was expected to start opposite of Gonzalez as a boundary corner. Unfortunately, the off-the-field troubles that plagued him in college continued this offseason, as he was arrested at Logan International airport in possession of multiple firearms. His status is questionable and a suspension is probably looming.

Shaun Wade

Shaun Wade was obtained in a trade from the Ravens two seasons ago. Since then, Wade has been active for a handful of games, but has mostly stayed on the Patriots practice squad. Wade can play in the slot or out wide, but has so far proven to be a depth piece and not a reliable starter.


Kyle Dugger

Kyle Dugger is one of a few unicorns on New England’s defense. He can hit like a runaway train or cover wide receiver one-on-one. He plays in the box as an extra linebacker or can play deep over the top. Dugger is in line for a significant contract after this season if New England doesn’t sign him before it’s over. Dugger should put together another great campaign in 2023.

Jalen Mills

When Jalen Mills initially signed in New England, the expectation was for him to be used all over the field in a role similar to the one he played in Philadelphia. Instead, injuries and the Stephon Gilmore trade left him being used primarily as a boundary corner. Mills was released this offseason before re-signing with New England with the expectation he’d be used more as a safety after McCourty’s retirement. The veteran got a lot of run in the preseason at his new position and should be a versatile piece of the defense.

Defensive back

Myles Bryant

Patriots’ fans favorite player to hate is sticking around for another season. And not because Belichick enjoys the anger and discontent, but because Bryant is extremely good — in a limited role. His top-end speed and lack of size can be exposed if he is used in extended stretches, but as a package defensive back he is a smart and reliable player.


Marte Mapu

If Kyle Shanahan is building a position-less offense in San Francisco, Belichick is doing the same on the defensive side of the ball. Mapu was viewed as a reach in the draft as a tweener linebacker/safety out of Sacramento State. However, Mapu may end up being the steal of the draft. He rarely left the field in training camp, as he played a new position with each wave of substitutions. Mapu has incredible football intelligence and very well may be an every down player for New England.

Jabrill Peppers

The former Michigan star seems to have found his swagger again in New England. As a do-it-all player in college, Peppers found himself in the Heisman conversation. This preseason, the defensive-back-who-primarily-plays-linebacker actually lined up to field punts. He brings versatility and big hit ability to the second and third levels of the defense.

Adrian Phillips

Adrian Phillips was signed as special teams ace, but has grown into a defensive star in New England. He and Peppers offer similar versatility and violence with contact, allowing a confusing rotation of defensive players in the New England secondary. Phillips is a prototype Belichick player who should enjoy another solid season in New England.



Chase Ryland

The Patriots chose to keep the rookie out of Maryland over trusted veteran Nick Folk, which should be all we need to know about how they view his potential. Ryland features a big leg that may intermittently lapse in accuracy. He should have a solid rookie season before putting it all together in year two.


Bryce Baringer

If the Patriots’ thirty yard punts drove you crazy last year, Belichick agreed with you. Bryce Baringer, a rookie, features an absolute cannon of a leg that should bring special teams back to “weapon” status in New England.

Special Teams

Chris Board

The Patriots were exposed on multiple levels on special teams last year. Chris Board was signed in the offseason to help remedy that issue. The special teams ace gained national attention in Detroit last year, and should be a core piece of the special teams turn around in New England.

Joe Cardona

The Navy long snapper was injured last year and finished the season on injured reserve. Cardona beat out competition this offseason to retain his role on the team. We shouldn’t hear his name often, due to his mistake-free style of play.

Brenden Schooler

Brenden Schooler enters his second year in the league after being an absolute stud on special teams as an undrafted rookie. He should continue to build his reputation as one of the best in the league, and hopefully learned not to try to get in Belichick’s good graces with grandiose gestures….

Matthew Slater

Realistically, this is the future Hall of Famer’s final season. Slater will continue to be the penultimate professional on and off the field.

Ameer Speed

Slater’s potential replacement is officially listed at corner, but spent training camp on the Slater practice plan: special teams, special teams, special teams. His name boasts his most noticeable attribute. He should be the gunner opposite of Slater and will prove to be hard to out-kick.

2023 NFL Draft Final Position Rankings: Defensive Backs

Here is the fourth and final set of defensive positional rankings for the 2023 NFL draft: the defensive backs. Before the season started the corner class looked pretty solid and has gotten better, whereas the safety class had questions entering the season and those seemed to get worse.

As always, I will be listing players at their expected NFL positions. Be sure to check out my previous mid-season rankings, and if you want to check out the draft database that I help update almost daily, you can find it at risendraft.

Photo Credit: Justin Casterline/Getty Images
2023 NFL Draft Defensive Backs: The Top 5
  1. Christian Gonzalez, Oregon: Gonzalez is a freak athlete at 6’1 197, running a 4.38 40-yard dash. He has some slot experience. He has picked up his ball production this season with four interceptions and six pass break ups. Gonzalez was a little inconsistent in 2021, but has improved that in 2022. His play against the run got better as the season went on.
  2. Joey Porter Jr., Penn State: Porter Jr. is the son of former Steelers and Dolphins pass rusher Joey Porter. He has almost ideal size at 6’2″ and 193 pounds, with crazy 34″ arms. His cover skills are phenomenal. He has a passer rating against of 63.6. The former Nittany Lion has solid 4.46 speed. Porter also lacks great ball skills. Yes, he does have nine passes defended in 2022, but has just one career interception. His run defense could also be better. He is a player with a good football IQ. The former Penn State cornerback has a high floor with still some room for growth.
  3. Devon Witherspoon, Illinois: Witherspoon doesn’t really stand out in the size department, going only 5’11 1/2 181 pounds, but out of any defensive back in this class, he would be the definition of “has that dawg in him”. He does not back down from anyone, is a good run defender, and plays a physical game. The former Illini also has great ball skills with three interceptions and 14 pass break ups this past season. He probably has the highest floor of all the 2023 NFL draft defensive backs.
  4. Deonte Banks, Maryland: Banks is another freak athlete at 6’0 197 with 4.35 40-yard dash speed. He hasn’t had a lot of ball production, with only two career interceptions and 11 pass break ups, and his play against the run can be a little uneven. But, he is so smooth in his hips and he likes to play a physical press style. He might have the highest upside of all the corners in the 2023 NFL draft.
  5. Julius Brents, Kansas State: Brents is a very large corner at 6’3, 198, but he plays like a much smaller corner. You can tell by his 6.63 3-cone time, which is quicker than a lot of 5’10 corners. He is strong, and good against the run. The former Wildcat does need to clean up some coverage issues, having given up four touchdowns this past season. He did have four interceptions and three pass break ups, though.
2023 NFL Draft Defensive Backs: Best of the Rest

6. JL Skinner, Boise State: Skinner is a huge safety at 6’4″, 209, but has the athleticism of a man three inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter. He has legit 4.45 40-yard dash speed with 32” arms. He plays mostly in the box, but has played free and in the slot. An explosive, powerful hitter, he reminds me a bit of Kam Chancellor. Although not as big, he is a bit better of a cover guy with six interceptions in the last two seasons. Skinner hasn’t been used as a blitzer much, which is surprising. He has a very good football IQ.

7. Kelee Ringo, Georgia: Ringo is another freak athlete at 6’2″ 207, and runs a 4.36 40-yard dash. He has great ability to mirror receivers. He was solid in 2021, but didn’t show any development — maybe even a little regression. His potential is through the roof, though. He has shown flashes, but his play is inconsistent from game to game. Ringo allowed one touchdown this season, but has had some struggles otherwise. He can be a bit stiff, as evidenced by his poor 3-cone time of 7.21.

8. Kyu Blu Kelly, Stanford: The son of former NFL corner Brian Kelly. He is definitely bigger than his father at 6’0″, 191. A four-year starter, Kelly has a lot of experience on his side. 2021 was his best season; he had some struggles in 2022, plus missed time with injury. His play against the run the last couple of seasons has not been good enough. He has shown to be an effective blitzer. Couple that with his experience in the slot, and he could be a guy who can play inside and out. That offers versatility to whomever drafts him.

9. Brian Branch, Alabama: Branch has been a slot corner for Alabama since he stepped on camps. Projecting him to the NFL, it looks like he could stay there or possibly move to safety, depending on the scheme. His size is okay at 6’, 190, and he ran a sub par 4.58 40-yard dash. From his slot position, he has been an amazing run defender and a crazy good tackler. He has missed only one tackle in his career. Branch has even shown he can be used as a blitzer, with four career sacks. One negative, though, is he has just two career interceptions, and they were both as a freshman. It leaves you wondering a bit about his ball skills. Branch can be a weapon at the next level — if he is used right.

10. Jartavius Martin, Illinois: Call him a corner, call him a safety, or call him a nickel back it doesn’t matter, he can do it all. He is 5’11 194 and ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at the combine. Martin is a well-rounded defensive back who will contribute in all phases. The former Fightin Ilini defensive back had solid ball production the last two seasons, with four interceptions and 16 pass break ups. Martin, like his former teammate Witherspoon, “has that dawg in him” as well.

Honorable Mentions:

Cam Smith-South Carolina,  Darrell Luter Jr.-South Alabama, Gervarrius Owens-Houston, Garrett Williams-Syracuse, Emmanuel Forbes- Mississippi State, Antonio Johnson-Texas A&M, Clark Phillips III-Utah, Jakorian Bennett-Maryland, Christopher Smith-Georgia, Jason Taylor II-Oklahoma State, Sydney Brown-Illinois

Make The Case: Who should the New York Giants Draft at 25?

The New York Giants draft is undoubtedly going to look different than previous years. No top pick, no extra capital, and nobody clamoring for a quarterback. What is the move at pick 25 for head coach Brian Daboll and company?

What do the New York Giants need?

If you watched any Giants football this year, it was blatantly obvious they have large gaps in their roster. The question at 25 shouldn’t be “which position is the biggest need” it should be “what player best fills a hole on the team”. With that being said, the Giants need the following: wide receiver, interior offensive line, and cornerback the most. Followed by an edge rusher and tight end.

The New York Giants Draft Options:

The Giants have a few really good options at 25, but it’s a weird place to be. With a lot of questions ahead of them, New York has no control over the options and just has to sit put and hope.

Photo Credit: Butch Dill

Offensive Line:

The offensive line was a lot better under Brian Daboll. The interior offensive line is the biggest problem for New York. Quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley were able to make things happen with constant pressure up the middle. Florida guard O’Cyrus Torrence would be a great option. He is a people mover. I got to see him down in Mobile for the Senior Bowl and he is one of the best O-line prospects in the draft.

Wide Receiver:

New York clearly needs wide receiver help. However, is this the class for them to take a receiver? I have no clue. Jordan Addison, Jaxson Smith-Njigba, and most of the receivers in this class are smaller guys. Do they take one of these guys early, considering the wide receivers they already have on the roster in similar roles? Probably not. Look for a receiver later in the draft.


This is a super tough one. If one of the top four corners are there, you take them INSTANTLY. The top two, Christian Gonzalez and Devon Witherspoon most definitely will not be there at 25. I don’t think Joey Porter Jr. or Cam Smith will be there, either. If they aren’t, corner is a no-go in my book. There is so much value later in this draft at corner that it just isn’t worth it.

The Best Draft Option for the New York Giants

Honestly, I don’t know that there is a “best” option for the Giants. If the Giants draft anyone I listed above, I would be happy, but it will all depend on the movement in front of the 25th pick.