New England Patriots outside linebacker Matt Judon invented a word Wednesday. Asked why he keeps giving credit to the Patriots’ secondary for his near-weekly collection of sacks, he explained that he’s a realist when it comes to football. So, form that together into one portmanteau, and he’s a self-described “footballist.”
Judon acknowledges he’s having the most productive season of his NFL career, but that’s fairly obvious. Judon ranks third in the NFL with 11.5 sacks, the first double-digit sack season of his career. Amazingly, he’s also only the sixth Patriots defender in the 22-season Bill Belichick era to register 10 or more sacks in a season, and he still has five games to go.
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But Judon — a Patriots offseason free-agent addition after spending the first five seasons of his career with the Baltimore Ravens — doesn’t necessarily view those as individual accomplishments. He’s referred to his own quarterback takedowns as “coverage sacks” multiple times this season. It’s true that no one is marrying big plays in coverage and pass rush quite like the Patriots — they rank second in interception percentage and eighth in sack percentage this season — but Judon also has been a wrecking ball, and he’s more than lived up to the four-year, $56 million contract that he signed in March.
Judon ranked first among edge defenders in PFF’s pass-rush productivity metric, fourth in total pressure and eighth in pass-rush win rate after Week 12.
“I’m just realistic,” Judon told PFF over the phone this week. “I’m a footballist. I like to understand the game and have knowledge of the game, and understand if I get ran past a quarterback or something like that and the quarterback has to pump once, pump twice, and then I get there, I can’t just pound my chest and say it’s all me. I get up and do my celebration or whatever, but then I go to the sideline and I tell my teammates ‘good look for having my back.’”
With 18 interceptions this season, it’s plain to see that Judon and the Patriots’ pass rush are doing just as much to help the team's secondary — which has thrived even after trading All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore and losing starting slot defensive back Jonathan Jones — by forcing opposing quarterbacks to hurry and make mistakes.