New England Patriots

Aug 29, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo watches the action during the second half against the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

By Alex Barth,

Plenty of attention has been paid to the lack of experience the Patriots have at the linebacker position, especially following Dont’a Hightower’s opt out last month. But are there any positives in having such a young group? Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo believes so.

“They’re very moldable,” Mayo told reporters when asked about such an advantage on Friday. “Right now, they come in and really don’t know much.”

As a first-year coach in 2019, Mayo worked with a much more experienced group what included Hightower, Elandon Roberts, Jamie Collins, and Kyle Van Noy. Now, all four of those players are no longer in the room.

Oct 14, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower (54) is tackled by Kansas City Chiefs tight end Demetrius Harris (84) after Hightower caught an interception thrown by quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) during the first quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

But Mayo has enjoyed working with the fresh faces.

“I’ve liked that: to have those young guys that are willing to try just about anything,” Mayo said. “Sometimes, the older players kind of get stuck in their ways, especially the players that have done things a certain way at a high level. You kind of tweak that and it’s more difficult. I would say with these younger guys, they come in with a good attitude, very moldable. They haven’t really been coached at this level.”

Outside linebackers coach Steve Belichick echoed the sentiment.

“[There is] a lot to teach these guys and a lot for them to learn,” Belichick said on Friday. “We’re doing our best to bring them along. At this point, they’re young. We can mold them to how we want them to play here.”

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – DECEMBER 29: New England Patriots Safeties Coach Stephen Belichick looks on from the sideline during the game against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on December 29, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

For the 2020 Patriots, the coaching staff will mirror the position at linebacker in terms of age and experience. At 34 years old, Mayo is in just his second season as an NFL coach. He played for the Patriots from 2008-2015, and worked in local media covering the team until last spring.

Steve Belichick, Bill’s son, is 33 years old coaching the linebacker position for the first time. He was a safety coach from 2016-2019, and spent four years as a general defensive assistant before that.

Of the Patriots eight listed, active linebackers, only two were on the team last year (Ja’Whaun Bentley, Shilique Calhoun), and just one other (Brandon Copeland) has any other NFL experience. Copeland is the oldest member of the group, at age 29.

How the linebackers perform this year has the potential to make or break the Patriots defense. With so much on the line and a relatively raw group to work with, Mayo and Belichick have a chance to do something special in 2020.

Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at