With the preseason underway, the New England Patriots have fully set their sights onto their upcoming 2022 campaign.
The Patriots currently have 80 players under contract, but only 53 of them will be able to survive roster cutdowns in late August and ultimately make the active team. Over the course of spring and summer, just like we have in years past, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping New England build on its 10-7 record.
Today, the series continues with rookie veteran defensive lineman Davon Godchaux.
Name: Davon Godchaux
Position: Defensive tackle/Interior defensive line
Jersey number: 92
Opening day age: 27
Size: 6-foot-3, 310 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2024 (2025 UFA)
What is his experience? After three seasons at LSU, Godchaux decided to take his talents to the NFL by declaring for the 2017 draft. While he had to wait until the fifth round to hear his name called, the big-bodied defensive lineman joined a favorable situation with the Miami Dolphins: he was able to get consistent playing time early on in his career, and finished his rookie season with 500 defensive snaps over 15 games — a sign of things to come given that his opportunities only increased through the years.
Godchaux’s numbers may never have been outstanding during his four-year tenure with the Dolphins, but his impact went beyond the stat sheet: he proved himself a valuable and consistent member of the team’s defense throughout his rookie contract. This, in turn, made him a free agency priority for the Patriots in 2021. Between his stints in Miami and New England, Godchaux has a total 70 in-game appearances on his career résumé; he also registered four sacks and forced a pair of fumbles, while notching 245 combined tackles.
What did his 2021 season look like? Despite his 2020 season coming to an early end due to a biceps tear suffered in mid-October, Godchaux’s first ever trip to unrestricted free agency was a short and profitable one. Just hours into the start of the legal tampering window, the Patriots and his camp reached an agreement on a two-year, $15 million contract — one that was a reflection of how his new team saw the veteran defender: Godchaux entered 2021 as a cornerstone member of New England’s defensive line.
Godchaux came as advertised. A big-bodied presence up front that is naturally suited to play in a two-gape scheme such as the Patriots’, he saw regular action throughout his first season in the system. Primarily taking the field on early downs, the ex-Tiger took the field in all 17 regular season games plus New England’s playoff defeat against the Buffalo Bills. He saw more action than any other interior defensive lineman on the team: Godchaux ended the season with a playing-time share of 59.3 percent (673 of 1,135).
When on the field, he proved himself a productive player who — as was the case in Miami — did not necessarily jump off the page due to an impressive statistical output. Godchaux ended the year with five quarterback disruptions, including one sack in Week 11 against Atlanta. He also forced a fumble the following week versus Tennessee, and registered 65 of his 66 total tackles on the year versus the run. He missed only two tackle attempts all year for a rate of 2.9 percent; no other starter was as steady at tackling as him.
So, was Godchaux’s first season in New England a success? Mostly, but not fully. Godchaux was unable to help address some of the unit’s issues versus the run and never quite proved himself the solution at the nose tackle spot the team had been missing the previous year. However, he also filled a starter-level role immediately and became a valuable part of one of the league’s best defenses. Godchaux was at his best moving all over the formation rather than being used in one set spot, and within that role was quite solid in 2021.
What is his projected role? Godchaux might not have proven himself a true nose in the mold of Vince Wilfork in 2021, but he was a good player for the Patriots. After all, he is a big player well-suited to perform in the team’s two-gap scheme. Heading into his second year with the organization, he is therefore again expected to see starter-level action as an early-down run stuffer helping free up the second-level defenders to make plays downhill; he also will see regular opportunities controlling the point of attack versus the pass.
Does he have positional versatility? Versatility was not a hallmark of Godchaux’s game arriving in New England last spring, but he quickly showed that he was capable of moving up and down the defensive line to plug holes wherever they needed to be plugged. Most of his snaps still came at the 0-technique/nose spot, but he also aligned virtually everywhere else between the tackles — and sometimes even outside as an edge.
What is his special teams value? With the exception of his injury-shortened 2020 season, Godchaux played between 18 and 21 percent of the Dolphins’ special teams snaps during his tenure with the club. His output changed slightly during his first year as a Patriot: Godchaux was on the field for only 16.4 percent of kicking game snaps: he spent most of his 76 snaps on the field goal and extra point blocking units (71) but also saw a handful of opportunities on the punt return squad (5).
What is his salary cap situation? Godchaux originally entered the current league year set to play on a salary cap number of $10.25 million while in the final season of his contract. However, the Patriots signed him to a new deal in July. As part of the two-year, $20.8 million extension, his cap hit dropped to $8.75 million in 2022: he is playing on a fully-guaranteed $1.5 million salary as well as a $6.25 million signing bonus proration and $1 million in likely-to-be-earned roster bonuses.
How safe is his roster spot? Godchaux will not be going anywhere anytime soon. That was already clear before his contract extension, but the new deal made this pretty much obvious and painted a clear outlook for him: the 27-year-old will continue to be a prominent part of the Patriots offense for the foreseeable future, and enter 2022 as one of the anchors of the team’s defensive line. Together with fellow linemen Christian Barmore, Deatrich Wise Jr. and Lawrence Guy he will form the basis of New England’s D-line rotation.
One-sentence projection: Godchaux will be on the field for more than half of New England’s defensive snaps yet again, but once more not jump off the stat-sheet.