Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Patriots D': Improvement Without Addition.
Like any young group the New England Patriots' defense in 2011 had it's ups and downs. Because of injuries to Ty Warren and Leigh Bodden many rookies were thrown into the fire earlier than Belichick probably planned. Despite giving up the 3rd most passing yards in the NFL, New England's young group clearly have serious potential. By the season's end they looked like a polished group who had grown to play together.
Along with allowing over 4,000 passing yards, the Pats allowed the 3rd most 1st Downs in the NFL. On the other hand New England was 11th best in the league at stopping the run, and were 2nd best in the league when it came to forcing turnovers.
Even though I wouldn't expect too many big signings at the defensive end, there will still be some additions. Veteran CB Leigh Bodden, and DT Ty Warren will bring more leadership to a group filled with youth. Rookie CB Ras-I Dowling will bring size rarely seen in NFL Cornerbacks. Veteran signing Marcus Stroud will most likely fill in as the 4th DT in the 3-4, but the 6'6" veteran is a three time Pro Bowler who has only missed 2 games in the past 3 years.
The other factor for improvement will be the continued growth of players already here. Devin McCourty looks to be special, Jerod Mayo could very well turn into a top 5 MLB, Patrick Chung is a hard hitting safety who is getting better and better in coverage, Jermaine Cunningham showed some pass rush potential, and 2nd year linebacker Brandon Spikes showed ball hawking skills in his rookie year that are rarely seen that quick in a players development.
With defensive captain Vince Wilfork still being that steady force there is no doubt that 2nd year players will continue to take steps forward, new rookies will be shown the Patriot way, and high character guys like Mayo will continue to grow into leaders. This Patriot defense will be better, but it won't be because Robert Kraft breaks the bank. It will be because Belichick has drafted quality football players for a system that has been proven time and time again.