5 Patriots players who will have increased roles following opt outs

Ryan Hannable
July 31, 2020 - 8:27 am

Earlier this week, six Patriots opted out of the 2020 season.

They are: Dont'a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Marcus Cannon, Brandon Bolden, Dan Vitale and Najee Toran.

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While the team will additional cap space, it's unlikely it will be spent on big-name players to fill the holes. Because of that, players currently on the roster will be asked to do more.

Here are five players who will need to step up following the opt outs.

Ja'Whaun Bentley- The third-year player suddenly finds himself as the only true middle linebacker on the team with any real experience in the system following Hightower opting out.. And even though he's in his third season, he doesn't have that much experience. He only played in a few games his rookie season and then was placed on IR, and played sparingly last season. He showed a lot of promise as a rookie and was already pegged as a player to make a jump this year. Now, it's very important for him to do that when it comes to the overall success of the defense. Expect him to likely call the plays for the unit and potentially emerge as a quiet leader.

Yodny Cajuste- The third-round pick of a year ago missed all of last season due to injury, but now without Cannon he finds himself in a position to be the starting right tackle if the season were to start today. Clearly, the Patriots think highly of him after selecting him so high knowing he would not play at all last season. While it would not be surprising to see a veteran tackle added, Cajuste will be given the opportunity to compete for the starting job.

Kyle Dugger- The Patriots' first overall pick this past April seemed to be in a spot to have this year be more of a learning season and soak in as much as he can from Devin McCourty, Chung and all the other veteran safeties, but now with Chung opting out his role will likely be expanded. While he likely won't be a starter, he will play more than probably the Patriots anticipated heading into the season. 

Dalton Keene- Keene is a tight end, but he played all over the field at Virginia Tech, including lining up in the backfield. With Vitale out of the mix, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Keene get some reps in the backfield as the Patriots try and see just how versatile he is. Jakob Johnson also figures to have a better shot at making the roster as last year showed how valuable having a fullback is to the run game.

John Simon- Simon quietly put together a solid season last year, starting 13 games and will likely be asked to start even more this season. The edge rusher will be asked to help mentor rookies Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings, but also have an increased role himself following not only Hightower's opt out, but also Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts departing. An outside-the-box though is potentially shifting him to playing more of a middle linebacker role.

Related: What will Patriots' roster look like? A pre-training camp prediction.