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New England Patriots Links 2/28/12 - Patriots Need to Get Better at Linebacker

<em>Always a good sign when a linebacker is carrying the ball, but Gary Guyton's future with the Pats is unclear</em>.
Always a good sign when a linebacker is carrying the ball, but Gary Guyton's future with the Pats is unclear.

Greg A. Bedard gives us a snapshot at where things stand on the defensive side of the Patriots’ roster.

Defensive line. It sounds as if Andre Carter will be back, but a lot of teams like him and might be willing to pay more than the Patriots. I could see Carter rebuffing those offers to stick with the sure thing in New England, even if he’s not paid as much. Mark Anderson is a very interesting situation that no one really has a read on. Doubt the Patriots would overpay for him. Gerard Warren might be back, but not Shaun Ellis.

Linebacker. Could see a situation in which Gary Guyton and Tracy White return for the minimum after striking out on the open market, but the Patriots need to get better at backup inside linebacker. Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes take a pounding. The Patriots also need at least one bonafide cover inside linebacker. The draft is a possibility. You would like to see the Patriots add a dynamic athlete to the front seven, but Bill Belichick hasn’t seemed inclined to do that outside of Adalius Thomas.

Secondary. Besides Welker, Patrick Chung’s the next contract situation. He is up after 2012. That’s not a straight-forward negotiation either, because Chung hasn’t stayed healthy. He looks like he could be a star, but how comfortable are the Patriots committing to a player who has been banged up the past two seasons (eight games played in 2011)? Hopefully something is worked out that is smart for Chung and the team. Would seem like a win-win. The Patriots definitely need to get more safety help in free agency and/or the draft. James Ihedigbo should be back to provide depth, leadership, and special teams play. Cornerback Antwaun Molden could be back with a minimum offer and then the team will wait to see what happens in training camp. Possibly Nate Jones, but I doubt it. The Patriots need more and better.

Mike Reiss expands a bit on Ras-I Dowling's injury and rehab.

A source familiar with Dowling's injury and progress said that he's remained in the area this offseason and is showing up at Gillette Stadium on a daily basis for rehab work. The source described Dowling as having made "great progress" after undergoing a surgical procedure.

The surgery wasn't initially in the plans when the Patriots placed Dowling on injured reserve in late October with a torn tendon in his leg. Initially, the thought process was that Dowling could have a full recovery without surgery, but it was ultimately decided that a "clean-up" would give him a better chance of not re-injuring the hip.

This created a tougher offseason for Dowling in terms of rehab, but he's currently hitting all his checkpoints.