FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots likely won’t rely on any one player to take a leap defensively this season, as the group has a solid enough foundation to ease people into new roles.

Keion White might just go ahead and pop anyway.

It’s tough getting a straight answer out of any coach when they’re asked to single out players, but Jerod Mayo went ahead and volunteered White’s name Wednesday. He was asked to name someone who has stood out through early OTA practices, and eventually landed on the second-year defender.

“Keion is doing a good job for us, and I’d say also, Keion has kind of taken that step forward as far as being a leader,” Mayo said prior to practice at Gillette Stadium. “Not as much vocally, but you see him actually leading the groups and working well, so if you need a name, that is a good one.”

Story continues below advertisement

What is it that has stood out to Mayo?

    What do you think?  Leave a comment.

“His versatility — he’s always been a strong guy but I would say he’s even stronger now,” Mayo said. “He’s here each and every day, and in the meeting rooms he’s talking and leading those conversations. We always talk about that Year 2 jump, so that’s a big part of it.”

White was exactly what you’d expect as a rookie defender playing under Bill Belichick. He came in and played sparingly as a rotational rusher, showcasing a high motor but only recording one sack and five quarterback hits in a full season of work.

Story continues below advertisement

It wasn’t so much an inability to make an impact, so much as an introduction into something that is still new for him.

“He’s got a ton of upside,” Patriots defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery told “It’s a ton of talent. I remember evaluating him when he came out, and just loving what he brought to the table. He’s long, he’s athletic, he’s strong. He can play multiple different spots, which adds value as a player.

“We’re talking about a guy who used to play tight end. He’s extremely athletic, but more importantly he’s strong enough and explosive enough to play multiple spots, so to see him play blocks and get on the edge you know he’s only going to get better. He’s only played three years of defensive line, so he’s going to get better.”

The Patriots will soon have to figure out Matthew Judon’s contract situation, but in the meantime, could look to White as someone to fill his role throughout the summer.

Story continues below advertisement

It’s asking a lot out of a second-year player, but given the upside we’ve already seen, the Patriots believe he’s up to the task.

“He’s going to get work at a ton of different spots,” Montgomery said. “He’ll be in my room quite a bit. He’ll be in (outside linebackers coach Drew Wilkins’) room quite a bit, and he’ll wear multiple hats. It’ll help him take that big step, and add to his value.”

Featured image via Zack Cox/NESN