Patriots

Raekwon McMillan ‘excited’ to show what he can do in Patriots debut

McMillan tore his ACL before playing in a single game with the Patriots in 2021.

Raekwon McMillan is set to play in his first game with the Patriots on Sunday. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Raekwon McMillan had a promising start to training camp in 2021 after the Patriots signed him that offseason. But the linebacker didn’t play a game last year, tearing his ACL during camp before he could make his official Patriots debut.

A year later, McMillan is healthy and part of a retooled Patriots’ linebacker corps that saw three notable veterans leave in the offseason (Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Jamie Collins). With uncertainty at the position, McMillan’s received a good amount of playing time — both with the starters and backups — during camp and the preseason.

There is one thing that’s a certainty though entering Sunday’s season-opener. McMillan is ready to play in his first game in two years, which is against the team he was drafted by and played for in his first three NFL seasons.

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“It’s been a long time coming, and I’m excited because I get to do it in the first stadium that I started in in Miami,” McMillan said. “But I’m just excited to get out there with the guys, man, show what I can do. Go out there, have fun, and play ball. Everybody’s writing about what I can do, what I can be, but I’m excited to go show it.”

In his first full preseason with the Patriots, McMillan made several plays throughout the three games. He recorded 11 tackles (seven solo) and a quarterback hit, being used as a blitzer at times with some effectiveness.

McMillan’s just one of several linebackers to have a role on this year’s Patriots team that didn’t have one with last year’s team. Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings figure to be used on the outside as pass-rushers while Mack Wilson, who was acquired in a trade from Cleveland, played in the inside linebacker spot and was used in pass coverage and as a blitzer during the preseason. Jahlani Tavai also played a good amount in the preseason, too.

They join Ja’Whaun Bentley (New England’s leading tackler in 2021) and Matthew Judon (New England’s leading sacker in 2021), who are the only returning linebackers who had a major role with last season’s team.

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McMillan believes the cast of linebackers around Bentley and Judon know exactly what their role is and how pivotal it is that each does their duty well beginning in Sunday’s Week 1 matchup.

“I think we’ve done a good job of figuring out how each guy can help this defense in any particular way,” McMillan said. “ … We have the same level of expectation for everybody. We run to the ball. We play hard. Starting with [Bentley], me, Mack, and Tavai. We’re the guys out there the majority of the time, and we just do a good job of helping each other and learning this defense, because we’ve got to show up Week 1. It’s a big week.”

As for playing his former team, McMillan has a lot of appreciation for them. But between the first whistle and the last whistle, it’s all business for him.

“It’s straight smoke when we first go out there. I play for the Patriots now,” McMillan said, smiling. “I love them guys to death. I’ll probably dap ’em up before the game. But when the clock starts until the clock ends, we’re [on] opposing teams.”

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“We keep it pushing and play ball, man,” McMillan added.

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