Abandon all hope? Not yet. Even though the defense has fallen off from the 2009 season (which had fallen off from the 2008 season, which was a ghost of the 2007 season), there is still reason to be hopeful. Let's take a look at who is on the Patriots' defense and compare it to the past couple of seasons.
Bold means returning 2009 starter, underline means 2008 starter.
||2008 Starters||2009 Starters
|Right Defensive End
||Richard Seymour||Mike Wright
||Vince Wilfork||Vince Wilfork
|Left Defensive End
||Ty Warren||Ron Brace|
||Jerod Mayo||Jerod Mayo
||Adalius Thomas||Adalius Thomas
||Brandon Meriweather||Brandon Meriweather
||Dean Pees||Dean Pees
So what does this mean? This means that only Mayo and Wilfork have three years of starters experience on this defense. Brandon Meriweather is another potential name, but he's been replaced by James Sanders (who was benched in 2009 for Brandon McGowan). Banta-Cain is a returner, but even he was on the bench against the Bills as rookie Jermaine Cunningham started. This defense is a young unit that is really playing for the first time; none of these players have really battled a 16 game season together.
Where does this leave the defense? No where to go but up really- and it's not like the defense is starting from the bottom. If Meriweather can reclaim his starting position and if Darius Butler minimizes the mistakes he makes, this defense will be able to grow together and be a formidable group of players.
Read more about starters after the jump!
Here's a break down of how many players have started at each position this season:
RDE - 2 (Mike Wright, Warren)
NT - 1 (Wilfork)
LDE - 2 (Warren, Brace)
ROLB - 2 (Banta-Cain, Cunningham)
RILB - 1 (Spikes)
LILB - 1 (Mayo)
LOLB - 1 (Ninkovich)
#1 CB - 2 (Butler, McCourty)
#1 CB - 2 (McCourty, Arrington)
SS - 1 (Chung)
FS - 1 (Sanders)
Clearly, the young secondary needs to solidify (Meriweather included) and figure out which players are going to be starting and playing minutes. As an overall unit, once some consistency is seen, they will start to gel. For right now, every player is still finding their spot on the defense.