Patriots: Who will step up with veteran players opting out in 2020?

Dont'a Hightower, New England Patriots (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Dont'a Hightower, New England Patriots (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots have a number of veteran players opting out in 2020. Who will step up?

The New England Patriots are among the many teams in the NFL who have had players opting out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the risks involved with playing this season.

The Patriots have seemingly been hit the hardest with a number of notable players deciding to opt-out of the 2020 season, including linebacker Dont’a Hightower, right tackle Marcus Cannon, and safety Patrick Chung.

Brandon Bolden and Danny Vitale are also opting out of the 2020 season, so it’s clear that the Patriots are going to need their young players to step up in a big way in 2020.

Which players will be tasked with filling these big shoes?

Dont’a Hightower > Cassh Maluia

A somewhat unheralded sixth-round pick out of Wyoming, Cassh Maluia is a very intriguing prospect who had pretty much no pre-draft hype but he’s got some playmaking ability on tape, to be certain.

Maluia is 6-feet tall, 247 pounds, and he can really move well around the field in coverage.

Although the Patriots had probably envisioned a much more limited role for him in his rookie season, being thrust into a bigger role early on could expedite Maluia’s development process and perhaps earn him a starting gig with the Patriots moving forward.

Patrick Chung > Kyle Dugger

Welcome to the big leagues, Kyle Dugger.

The Lenoir-Rhyne product and top draft pick for the Patriots in 2020 is going to get a trial by fire with the news that Patrick Chung is opting out.

Dugger was obviously not heavily recruited coming out of high school but he developed into a dominant athlete at Lenoir-Rhyne who was not only a safety but return specialist as well.

He was just bigger, faster, and stronger than everyone else on the field, but he showed at the Senior Bowl and Scouting Combine that he can hang with NFL athletes.

The Patriots are going to get the chance to put him to the test right away.

Marcus Cannon > Yodny Cajuste

The Patriots used a third-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft on West Virginia’s Yodny Cajuste, and he could be counted on in a big way in 2020 with the news that Marcus Cannon will be opting out.

Cannon came into the NFL with some health issues and was drafted way lower than he should have been as a result, but he’s been a really good player for the Pats.

Cajuste was a second-team All-American in 2018 for the Mountaineers when Will Grier and company were lighting up the scoreboard.

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While the Patriots have some of the most notable players opting out of the 2020 season at this point, it will be interesting to monitor these situations across the league and how teams are impacted going forward if players step in and do a great job for these proven veterans.