Pats’ defensive newcomers arrive with ‘something to prove’

Sports

BOSTON (AP)A smile hugging his face, Davon Godchaux had no trouble pinpointing the source of his joy as he spoke to reporters about signing a two-year, $13 million free agent deal to join the New England Patriots.

”The passion comes from Week 5 (last season), getting hurt and not playing the rest of the season,” Godchaux said Wednesday. ”I’m so hungry to get back out there. I’m so ready to dominate. … To get back out there with the guys and the team and team bonding. I missed out on that.”

Linebacker Kyle Van Noy was just as giddy as he described his thoughts about signing a two-year, $13 million deal to return to his familiar stomping grounds in New England, the place where he earned two Super Bowl rings and saw his stock rise over 3 1/2 seasons.

”I’m just happy to be back with my brothers,” Van Noy said. ”It’s going to be exciting. Hopefully, we can do some damage and make some noise.”

The Patriots ranked 15th in the NFL in total defense last season, allowing 353.8 yards per game. It was a steep decline from the 2019 group that allowed only 275.9 yards and 14.1 points per game, which both ranked first in the league.

The deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball were a combination of being without linebacker Dont’a Hightower and safety Patrick Chung, who both opted out because of COVID-19 concerns, as well as a lack of production rushing the quarterback and stopping the run.

The additions of Godchaux and Van Noy, along with edge rusher Matt Judon, defensive back Jalen Mills, defensive lineman Henry Anderson, linebacker Raekown McMillian and defensive end Montravius Adams should provide some immediate help in those areas.

While Chung announced his retirement last week, Hightower is returning, creating a blend of old and new personnel for coach Bill Belichick and his staff to work with.

And having Van Noy, who spent 2020 in Miami playing for coach and longtime Patriots assistant Brian Flores, will also give the coaching staff another veteran capable of helping other newcomers grasp the principles of New England’s schemes.

Flores put Van Noy’s skillset to use, tapping him to serve as a captain last season. He responded by being one of Miami’s top defensive performers, totaling 69 tackles and six sacks.

In Van Noy’s mind, he won’t have to change much about his approach even as he changes jerseys again.

”I’m just going to continue to do it,” Van Noy said. ”And this year I get to do it with a group that I have trust in. And I feel like it won’t skip a beat. … I get to learn new faces. I’m the new guy now. So, it’s going to be a good mix to get to know everybody and get to work.”

Godchaux may need a little longer to get his footing after spending the final 11 games of last season on injured reserve following a shoulder injury and subsequent surgery.

But he said through his initial conversations, he feels as if it is a group of free agents that isn’t just talented, but eager to return the Patriots to being a top five defense.

”I think you bring guys like Jalen Mills, you bring other guys like (Matt) Judon and all the other guys in the class that we’ve got, man, it’s going to be exciting. Each one of those guys who we picked up are hungry. They got something to prove and I’ve definitely got something to prove.”

More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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