While there are few that have any doubt Bill Belichick and Tom Brady will find a way to compensate for their very thin tight end and wide receiver situation, defense was much more of an issue last year, which brought upon a change to a more constant 3-4 scheme on defense, which seems to be working quite well in the early days of preseason.
The Patriots gave up more yards and more points than any other team last season, with the secondary usually being the first part of their team to be blamed, although it also had to do with an inability to get to the quarterback and create pressure. The Pats were 15th in sacks, however few teams did better than them against the run, allowing only 3.9 yards per carry, good enough for sixth in the NFL.
A need for a change and a shortage at the defensive tackle position prompted the change to a 3-4, which puts Vince Wilfork at the nose tackle position, flanked by Chandler Jones, adding a few pounds of muscle to his frame over the offseason, and Tommy Kelly, signed from the Oakland Raiders.
The linebacker crew will include Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Dont’a Hightower as the regular starters, while there will be a rotation at the Jack position, with Rob Ninkovich, Jamie Collins, Marcus Benard, and Jake Bequette fighting for the spot. The Patriots won’t be in a 3-4 defense all the time, but according to the Boston Globe, their front 7 looks at its best in that formation.
But what about the secondary? Things should be slightly better than last year. Aqib Talib is probably the number one guy, with Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington battling for the second spot. Veteran Adrian Wilson, picked up after a long career with the Arizona Cardinals, will certainly help the safety position, especially during first and second down situations.
Training camp isn’t enough of an indication, and one thing’s for sure: The Patriots have a problem, once again when it comes to depth at a number of positions, but if they avoid bad luck, their defense shouldn’t look as vulnerable as it did last year.