For the past 12 years, I cannot think of a year when the New England Patriots have not been at the least a concern for most opponents. The Patriots' offensive juggernaut has been able to score indiscriminately on the league year after year.
The offensive mentality has followed the career quarterback Tom Brady. When you have a franchise player like him, you naturally strive to get him all the tools he needs to continue being productive.
In this, head coach Bill Belichick has treated his star quarterback like a favorite nephew and showered him with all the best toys. Finally, Tom looks as if he is surrounded with a richness of talent to the point that he will never be able to play with them all to their full potential; as offenses go, that’s a good thing.
Throughout his career, Belichick has been mostly known for his defensive acumen, but Patriots fans have moaned year after year as he has traded away what fans considered the best and key parts of the defense: Asante Samuel, Ty Law, Richard Seymour to name a few. Not since Ted Johnson, Mike Vrabel, Willie McGinest and Teddy Bruschi roamed the field together have Pats fans felt they had a better-than-decent defense.
The whole “bend-but-don’t-break” defensive scheme has run its course, and now it ain’t working. Other teams have discovered that if they can stay close, stop the offense once and score themselves once more, the Patriots can be beat.
As Tom Brady and Co. have made trip after trip to the playoffs, the fans have seen the defense bent to the breaking point.
In the 2012 draft, the Patriots traded up for a couple of defensive picks and then continued picking defensive players again and again. They made one obligatory offensive pick at the very end.
- Round 1 (Pick 21): Chandler Jones (DE, Syracuse)
- Round 1 (Pick 25): Dont’a Hightower (LB, Alabama)
- Round 2 (Pick 48): Tavon Wilson (S, Illinois)
- Round 3 (Pick 90): Jake Bequette (DE, Arkansas)
- Round 6 (Pick 197): Nate Ebner (DB, Ohio State)
- Round 7 (Pick 224): Alfonzo Dennard (CB, Nebraska)
- Round 7 (Pick 235): Jeremy Ebert (WR, Northwestern)
Perhaps, as Bill Belichick filled the role of defensive coordinator last year, it set off a few bells in his head as he realized he didn’t have enough toys for himself. In true big-boy fashion, I predict that Bill will be cleaning out his defensive toy box. We will see him keep some of his favorites, but now he also has some shiny new ones.
Will we see a more aggressive defensive scheme this year? One can only hope. I'd be happy to see a few more sacks, a few more passes defensed, a few more drives stopped on their end of the field.
I don’t mind having a monster offense, but lately I have been viewing the Patriots team as a muscle-bound lunk. All ripped and muscled in the upper body but lacking a lower torso to match.
Maybe, just maybe the Patriots will be more balanced this year, because it looks like they have relearned how to spell defense.