The Patriots first team defense is providing the team with confidence not seen since 2007. There's hope on every level of the field; from defensive end Chandler Jones and his incredible performance against the Panthers, to linebacker Jamie Collins and his unbelievable athleticism, to defensive backs Darrelle Revis and Devin McCourty providing the secondary with two elite players.
The top unit has only provided us with a teaser of their ability this preseason. They didn't play in the first week against Washington (the linebackers and secondary didn't take the field) and they didn't play in the last week against the Giants.
Instead, they provided us plenty in their nine drives against two extremely dynamic offenses in the Eagles and the Panthers.
Last season, the Patriots top unit flashed early in the year, but disintegrated after injuries to Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Jerod Mayo, and Aqib Talib. Through four games, prior to the injuries, the Patriots ranked 5th in points against per game (14.25 PPG) and looked to improve.
In the 2013 preseason, the Patriots first team defense played 14 drives and allowed 23 points, or 1.64 points allowed per drive (PAPD). That improved to 1.00 PAPD over the first four games of the regular season, actually ranking third in the league (behind just the Chiefs and the Seahawks). Still, the strong preseason provided a springboard for a successful start to the season.
The 2014 edition of the defense is even better.
Over nine drives in the 2014 preseason, the defense has allowed just seven points. That's 0.78 PAPD and is entirely unsustainable (the record-setting Seahawks finished last season with 1.16 PAPD). Still, it's a positive sign for the team's potential.
The top unit held the Eagles' unique offense to one touchdown and a missed field on four drives, with that lone score coming on a short field (31 yards) after a blocked punt. The team forced a fumble on Philadelphia's first play.
They managed to improve on that performance in week 3, holding the Panthers to five punts on five drives.
While we can't expect the Patriots to allow opponents under 1 PAPD, the first team defense has definitely improved upon last year's potential top five line-up. Hopefully everyone can remain healthy and the results will show themselves on the field.