While we certainly seem stacked on offense this year, it has been the Defense that has shown some life in the preseason. The last few years most NE fans have counted on the offense to score 35 points and hope the defense would allow only 28. For the first time since the heady days where we were winning Superbowls, it seems we have the potential to have a championship defense, and finally close out drives on 3rd down. A good defense also mean more Reps for Brady and the offense.
The one thing we can always count on with Belichik and company is a steady improvement in our weaknesses (Good luck with that one Jets fans) and the D has been in rebuilding phase for several years. Clearly the D had been missing pieces in the secondary and rushing areas over the past few years and that combined with inexperience was a death knell for getting off the filed on third down no matter the distance. For the the first time in what seems an eternity I am actually phsyched about our defensive personal. First the Linebackers are solid group Mayo and Spikes have always been solid a bit raw, but needed help and the Hightower (who is a beast) addition makes the group meaner and formidable and one of the better Line-backing cores in the NFL. Our Defensive line has the most depth we've seen in a while and Jones as young and undeveloped as he is has been very disruptive force in the backfield. Throw in Cunningham's performance last night and the steady play of Wilfork, Love, Ninkovich and Deaderick and we may actually get a decent pass rush. We also have depth as the subs have shown some flashes which gives Belichik more opportunities to sub players and rest starters. The depth here on the projected defensive line (that is without Carter which is still question mark but at this late point and with Cunnigham's play I doubt he returns) is great.
Our safeties with the addition of Gregory playing along side Chung are solid and once again we have more depth with Wilson and Ebner both showing promise. Ihedigo because he has more experience could be kept, but long term is not the answer and is more likely to clear the waiver wire than the other two. I like Ebner once he gets comfortable in the system and because he will be valuable on special teams. The question is which safety gets to practice squad easiest. The other question here is do they keep 5th safety with Ihedigo/ Ebner or do they keep Dennard/Coles as an extra corner. I think Dennard will make the final cut because of his athleticism and potential
Corners are still a bit of question mark as we are not sure which McCourty will show up though most likely will have a better year than his sophomore year where he was injured much of the time and had very little safety help. I think with solid safety play behind him you will find him to be more aggressive at the line of scrimmage and making plays on the ball. Also Arrington has been solid. Hopefully a healthy Dowling can finally live up to his potential. Dennard is young but very athletic and I think will make the team with Coles at the expense of a safety. I also think at this point that if they choose to go with 5 safeties Coles is more expendable than Dennard in terms of long term potential and Dennard will never clear the waiver wire. My gut here is Ihedigo is the casualty and if clears waiver wire will be brought back as insurance on practice squad. I also think if the pass rush lives up to its potential this groups job will be a lot easier.
Overall the D is young and athletic with many potential play makers. Veterans such as Wilfork, Chung, Gregory, Mayo and Spikes will help coach these guys up. The D for the most part seems to be starting to gel especially late last season. The addition of a bunch of key players will allow Belchik to be much more creative on D as they finally have personal that allows them to give many different looks. It may start Vanilla for the first 4 games, but this D has the talent to allow more scheming. It is also a defense that has a great foundation for the next 4 or 5 years.
As for the offense yes they have looked mortal, but are we really worried they will end up looking like the Jets offense. Too many weapons, Brady at quarterback and a running game that has looked fairly good. The offensive line has been a problem but without 3 starters. I do expect Waters back or we would have heard he has retired by now. The depth here is an issue but the group should be solid assuming no injury.
The good news on offense is three fold. One I think our D will give the offense more reps. Two I think we can win the 17-14 games for a change, and Finally maybe we can run out the clock in the 4th quarter with what seems to be a more explosive running attack. A better (hopefully great D) takes a load of pressure off the offense.