Raekwon McMillan may not be the name everyone was hoping to appear here. Surprisingly to us fans McMillan seems to have a tentative spot as a starter next to Bentley in the heart of the Patriots’ defense.
He has shown enough speed and awareness to stay out in the occasional sub-package if the team needs more size against opposing running backs. The only reason McMillan didn’t start last year was that he tore his ACL. Before that, he was going to be on the field often. Fans shouldn’t couldn’t out the talent this guy can bring to a linebacking core that is depleted.
Part-Time Starter Or Every Down Player?
What can McMillan bring to this team? At age 26, he fits the narrative that the team is trying to get younger on the field. He brings a mixture of speed size and tackling that could really fit well within the Patriots scheme. However, he is coming off an injury so I don’t believe an every-down role is for him, especially when the roster construction is geared toward hybrid safeties.
The off-ball linebacker competition is not that robust on the team this year. Ja’wuan Bentley is the only player who played an NFL snap for New England, Cam McGrone is coming off the ACL tear as well, and Mack Wilson SR. (fun fact: who follows me on Twitter) is coming in from the Browns in the Chase Winovinch deal. McMillan, if healthy, would be logging around 60-70% of the interior off-ball linebacking position.
I say this because it seems like Belichick is a fan of his, according to this quote, after removing McMillan from the Physical Unable To Perform List (PUP for short)
“Raekwon works really hard,” Belichick said. “Really smart player, has experience, understands a lot at the linebacker position. Obviously there’s a lot going on there, but he handles things well; signal caller, multiple-position player. And it’s good to see him back out there.
“He looks like he’s recovered very well, and based on what we saw in the spring and the limited looks here this first week I’d say he’s doing very well.”
This may seem like some nice comments to any other fan but here in New England, we know when Bill gives more than “we will see how he plays” or if was just the “Raekwon works really hard” and none of the other things that would also make sense. Whenever Belichick spends more than a breath on a play in a press conference, we as team fans know he favors him.
The middle linebacker position will not gain the glory it did back in the Bruschi or Mayo days. However, it still needs people to step up and I think that McMillan could be one of the bright spots in this Patriots defense.
The team will go through some growing pains switching strengths from cornerback and linebacker to safety and defensive line, but that gives the unknown players the ability to do their job and become the next generation of Patriots. Who knows next year we may all be talking about the great linebacking core we have. I’m honestly more worried about the cornerback position. Raekwon and the guys will hold it down.
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