The New England Patriots’ official roster has Matthew Judon listed as “LB,” but he is much more than your traditional linebacker. Over the course of his career, Judon has established himself as a versatile front seven defender capable of moving between positions without hesitation or a notable drop-off in performance.
Entering his first season as a Patriot, Judon is therefore poised to help his new club wherever he can. Edge? Off the ball? Somewhere else entirely? You name it.
“I’ll be open to playing safety if coach asks,” he said during a media conference call following Tuesday’s mandatory minicamp practice.
Judon joined the Patriots as a free agent in March, signing a four-year, $56 million contract. The deal itself already illustrates how the team envisions using the veteran defender: Judon will be prominently featured as part of a rebuilt front seven that also saw the additions of fellow linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Raekwon McMillan.
Together with returnee Dont’a Hightower and youngsters such as Josh Uche, Chase Winovich and rookie Ronnie Perkins they will form an impressively flexible group. Given his own versatility, Judon seems to fit right in.
“I’ve played everything. I was on the edge. I was inside. Sometimes, I was lined up at corner. It just depended on what the call is,” he said.
“I feel like I’ll do the same here and hopefully I have as much or more success here, just being in a room with inside linebackers, being in a room with a Super Bowl champion coaching us and Super Bowl champions also in the room. Wherever they need me, that’s where I’ll be on that play and I’ll do the job to the best of my ability.”
Before arriving in New England, Judon spent five years with the Baltimore Ravens. Appearing in a combined 80 regular season and playoff games, he also showed that he can be moved around no problem.
While Judon saw most of his action in Baltimore on the line of scrimmage as an outside linebacker, his size — he is listed at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds — also makes him a candidate to play an off-the-ball role in the box. If the Patriots opt to use him that way, he would essentially become a hybrid move linebacker in the mold of Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy.
Even if the team decides to use him in a more traditional role, he does add impressive talent to a linebacker group suddenly among the deepest in the NFL. Judon, however, is not willing to make any claims about its success heading into the 2021 season.
“We got to see when we go out there,” he said. “I’d love to say that we’re gonna be the best pass rush. But if we don’t go out there and execute, we don’t execute. We have some guys that know how to rush the passer, but we all have to go out there and, first of all, I have to just do my job. Do my job, whatever the call is on that snap, I have to execute and sometimes the ball might get out early, I just want to be effective on every play.”