FOXBORO, Mass. – Aside from the signing of special teamer Chris Board and the drafting of third-round pick Marte Mapu, the Patriots’ linebacker room remains unscathed from a season ago. Matthew Judon, Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings, Jahlani Tavai, Raekwon McMillan, and Mack Wilson Jr. are all set to return for this coming season.
They’re led by captain Ja’Whaun Bentley, who sounds much more aware of his off-the-field presence with the team heading into his sixth season.
“Just learning each other,” said Bentley on the importance of the offseason training program. “There’s no wins and losses so you just look to take huge strides.”
Bentley, who grew up a Celtics fan, has had the opportunity to support the team and the region by attending some of Boston’s games at the TD Garden. He’ll be in the building for their pivotal game five against the 76ers on Tuesday:
“You’re all representing the same area. We’re all fighting and competing for the New England area,” Bentley said on the camaraderie between the region’s teams. “We need a win today. I won’t say too much, I don’t want to jinx them.”
After resigning with New England on a two-year, $6 million contract last March, Bentley put together a career season in 2022. The 26-year-old tallied 125 tackles, 3 sacks, a fumble recovery, and an interception last season. He’s looking to build off of that heading into 2023:
“I would say I feel like every player’s goal is just to improve,” said Bentley on his continued progression as a linebacker. “At the end of the day [I’m] trying to keep that steady track just trying to get better.”
Despite entering his second contract year over the last three seasons, Bentley says that he doesn’t look into that kind of stuff:
“I keep the main thing the main thing… at the end of the day you need to make the most out of every opportunity that you have.”
Bentley will be given that opportunity as the middle man of the Patriots’ defense heading into 2023, which will once again be led by linebackers coach Jerod Mayo. Mayo returns to Foxboro despite several head coaching interview requests and opportunities over the last several years. Bentley, who has been coached by Mayo since 2019, sounds happy to have him back in Foxboro: