The 2020 season was a disappointment for the New England Patriots. They finished with a losing record for the first time in two decades, failed to qualify for the playoffs, and struggled to play consistent football throughout the year.
However, 2020 also gave them a chance to start a rebuild. Accordingly, the Patriots headed into the 2021 offseason with considerable resources in hand: they were among the league-leaders in salary cap space, and had their highest first-round draft pick in years.
New England was expected to be aggressive during the offseason, and those expectations turned into a reality.
Eight months after the official start of the 2021 league year, the Patriots are now looking like one of the best and most balanced teams in football again. Owning a 6-4 record as well as the sixth seed in the AFC playoff race, they have won four straight behind a physical defense and efficient offense.
Established veterans such as Matthew Slater, David Andrews, Dont’a Hightower and Devin McCourty have all played big roles in the turnaround, but so have those brought in with the aforementioned resources. Two stand out in particular, at least as far as SB Nation’s latest Reacts survey is concerned: participants were asked to name their Offensive and Defensive MVPs, and two offseason additions took the titles.
Quarterback Mac Jones and linebacker Matthew Judon have received the midseason honors:
Jones beating out the likes of Damien Harris, Jakobi Meyers and others does not come as a surprise despite his status as a rookie. The Patriots’ first-round selection has played some impressive football so far this year, after all.
Beating out incumbent Cam Newton over the summer, Jones has started all 10 of the Patriots’ games so far this season. While he did have some rookie growing pains early on, he has played some solid and confident football as of late. All in all, Jones has completed 223 of 323 pass attempts (69%) for 2,334 yards, 13 touchdowns and 7 interceptions — with only one of those coming during New England’s recent four-game winning streak.
Matthew Judon, meanwhile, has played like a man possessed ever since his first preseason game with the Patriots. In the regular season so far, he has been a tone-setter for a revamped defense playing a physical brand of football.
Appearing in all 10 games and ranking third on the team with 551 snaps, Judon is New England’s leader in quarterback pressures. So far, the 29-year-old has registered 9.5 sacks — tying his single-season high — as well as an additional 36 disruptions. He has also recovered a fumble and helped the Patriots shore up their run defense following a bad outing a year ago.
Both Jones and Judon have come as advertised, and they have played a key role in helping New England turn the ship around this year. They are certainly deserving of MVP honors at this point in the season.
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