FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots fielded one of the NFL’s leakiest run defenses in 2020.
Davon Godchaux is here to ensure that doesn’t happen again this season.
“I always like to say, stop the run to have some fun,” the veteran defensive tackle said Wednesday as he prepared for his regular-season Patriots debut. “… That’s from Coach Ed Orgeron at LSU. That kind of was my mentality once I left there and got drafted in Miami and came here. I was always built on stopping the run.”
The Patriots ranked 26th in rushing yards allowed per game last season. They were 20th in yards allowed per carry. In Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA, which measures a unit’s overall efficiency, they were 32nd — dead last. They surrendered more than 185 yards on the ground in four of their nine losses.
Enter Godchaux, who was one of the NFL’s most effective run-stuffers in 2019 before a torn biceps wiped out most of his 2020 campaign. Listed at 6-foot-3, 311 pounds, the Patriots hope the former Miami Dolphin can be the true nose tackle they sorely lacked last season after losing Danny Shelton in free agency and expected replacement Beau Allen to a season-ending injury in training camp.
This past spring, Godchaux and the Patriots agreed to terms on a two-year, $15 million contract just hours into the NFL’s legal tampering period. Shortly after signing, the 26-year-old proclaimed he’s “one of the best nose tackles in the game” when healthy. He led all interior defenders in run stops in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus.
“I feel like I fit best in this (Patriots) scheme,” Godchaux said in March. “I thrive in this scheme. This scheme best fit my skill set. I can play any scheme, but I feel like this scheme right here best fit my skill set.”
Improving their depleted front seven was a clear point of emphasis for New England this offseason. After adding Godchaux, the Patriots grabbed D-lineman Henry Anderson in free agency and Christian Barmore in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. They also added two new veteran starting edge rushers in Matt Judon and Kyle Van Noy and got top linebacker Dont’a Hightower back from his COVID-19 opt-out.
That unit’s first test will come Sunday, against a Miami team that shredded New England for 250 rushing yards in a Week 15 win last December.
“(I want to) stop the run to allow my teammates and me to have some fun on third down,” Godchaux, one of four ex-Dolphins to land with the Patriots this offseason, said Wednesday. “That’s the key. That’s the motto. You’re not going to be a tough team if you don’t stop the run. No matter who you are, I believe that stopping the run — it’s got to do with some techniques, but it’s mostly all about toughness.
“If you’re not going to do that, then you’re not going to be a good football team. Anybody who knows football could tell you that.”