What are the Pats looking for in edge defenders? Ninkovich explains


After covering the cornerback and safety positions with Devin McCourty, it's time to focus on another area the New England Patriots could look to improve in the 2023 NFL Draft: the edge.

Our Phil Perry continues to catch up with former Patriots to get a better idea of what Bill Belichick is looking for at different positions. To learn more about what Belichick and the Pats want from their edge defenders, he had two-time Super Bowl champion Rob Ninkovich on the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast to share his insight.

Next Pats Podcast: What the Patriots are looking for in EDGE players with Rob Ninkovich | Listen & Follow | Watch on YouTube

"You've got to be smart. You've got to be able to learn on the fly and adapt. And then you have to be able to adjust, but also be willing to add tools to that toolbox," Ninkovich said.

"At the end of the day, an outside backer or an outside edge defender has to understand what they are, work with the tools that they have, and try to really create as much as you can. Because for me, I understood my limitations. So number one, you've got to set the edge. So being a really stout run defender on early downs, that's how you make your bread, but that's how you get the third down. ...

"So I would say brains, a little bit of brawn because you've got to be strong, and being able to have some type of either rush or run stop or pass rush. Like, you can't just be a pass rusher and have no special teams skill."

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So, which name in the upcoming NFL Draft fits Ninkovich's description?

"The name that I came up with is Keion White out of Georgia Tech," Perry said. "He is super-sized off the edge when you're talking about a (Matt) Judon or a Ninkovich type because he ain't 260 (pounds), he's 285. He was 281 at his pro day. Six-foot-5, 281, 34-inch arms, 10.5-inch hands. This guy is a physical freak. ...

"These guys don't grow on trees and if he can be taught, he gets in the lab with Bill Belichick, with Joe Kim the pass rush specialist, the defensive line coach for the Patriots DeMarcus Covington, working with those front seven defenders for the Patriots, Steve Belichick, Jerod Mayo. You can get some good coaching here in New England. Maybe you can really tap into that potential and you can tap into that growth that you may perceive is locked up there in that behemoth frame that White is bringing to the table."

Also in the episode: The importance of drafting a player you can develop, the difficulty identifying which players can adapt at the next level, and what Ninkovich wants to see out of Mac Jones this season.

Check out the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network, or watch it on YouTube below:

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