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New England Patriots Links 7/11/12 - Pressure to Perform on Devin McCourty's Shoulders

<em>Pressure to perform will weigh heavy on Devin McCourty's shoulders this season</em>.
Pressure to perform will weigh heavy on Devin McCourty's shoulders this season.

ESPNBoston highlights the SportsCenter Special on the AFC East aired on Tuesday night.

Big question for the Patriots -- "How much has defense improved?"
Pierce: "I think it's improved greatly. You talk about the pickups in the draft with [Dont'a] Hightower, [Chandler] Jones, you picked up some guys that can really help you out -- get after the passer and be very physical. But it's that secondary that's going to have to step up. They created a lot of turnovers, but they put themselves in positions where they played shootout games. They're going to have to keep the score down. Tom Brady and those guys, they can score points. But if that defense can really step up, if these young guys can learn the system and fit into that scheme -- you see it year in and year out, somebody comes along with Belichick and has a breakout year. Last year it was Andre Carter. Hopefully one of these rookies can step up."

Biggest concern heading into training camp
Pierce: How will the defense be fixed to help support Tom Brady and the explosive offense?
Douglas: Defense. With all the young players, the team would be fortunate to have two of them emerge.

Super Bowl losers
A graphic showed that seven Super Bowl losers returned to the championship game the following season -- Bills (1991, 1992, 1993), Broncos (1987), Vikings (1974), Dolphins (1972) and Cowboys (1971). The '71 Cowboys and '72 Dolphins were the only teams to win in their return to the Super Bowl.

Top plays
In ranking the top 10 AFC East plays from last season, Wes Welker's 99-yard touchdown reception against the Dolphins was seventh, Rob Gronkowski's 37-yard reception against the Redskins was fourth, and his juggling, diving touchdown catch against the Broncos in the playoffs was second.

The poll had the Patriots at 79.4 percent to win the division. Pierce picked the Patriots first. Douglas picked the Patriots second (behind the Jets). Another poll had 62.4 percent saying the Patriots have another Super Bowl title in them under Bill Belichick/Tom Brady. Walsh, Pierce and Douglas picked Tom Brady as the AFC East projected most valuable player.



  • Jeff Howe breaks down the Patriots cornerbacks and sees the most pressure to perform heavy on the shoulders of Devin McCourty.
  • Mary Paoletti posts Tom Brady's latest commercial, this one for a new candy called "Unreal." (1.38 min. video) Worth a watch.
  • takes a close look at the Patriots opponents in the upcoming season: San Francisco 49ers.
  • Mike Rodak analyzes players on the roster bubble and where they may potentially fit in 2012: DT Myron Pryor.
  • Field Yates scouts the Patriots roster: 3-4 ILBs.
  • Mark Farinella leaves us with a few pre-training camp pearls of cynicism to ponder before he high tails it away on vacation.
  • Mike Reiss answers his weekly reader mailbag: Welker's future with the Pats?
  • Jeff Howe Patriots Notebook: Kyle Arrington's athleticism, speed and strength make him a good candidate to take on the slot corner role; Wes Welker and the Patriots are still negotiating, and if a deal gets done it won't be until just before the deadline; The Saints will be in Foxborough Aug. 7-8 to hold two joint practices before their preseason game Aug. 9th. The Aug. 7th session will be the only one with live contact.