New England Patriots: Defensive Preview – Can they be better in 2017?
The New England Patriots did not have the strongest defenses in 2016. Quite frankly, they really lacked the dominance to push the limits of opposing oﬀenses. Their pass rush desired to be better. There were not too many opposing coaches who feared them. There was plenty of room for improvement. Yet somehow, they managed to make it out of the Super Bowl with a championship. They got down big and then bent but never broke against the Atlanta Falcons in a comeback for the ages.
Now in 2017, the unit is much improved.
That is why the Patriots remain a dynasty. Even after they have won it all, they are not resting on their laurels; they are going out and trying to build on their next championship. Too often teams Let championship caliber players walk for more money and sign the alternative who never ﬁlls their shoes. Not in New England, they went out and picked up a playmaker at every level of their defense. They went out and traded for Kony Ealy at defensive end, resigned coveted free agent Dont’a Hightower at linebacker, and signed Stephan Gilmore from division rival Buﬀalo Bills at corner back. The team is not used to spending freely, but clearly, they needed to build a stronger unit.
They will face the same tough schedule the rest of their division will. You can bet they took note of that in the oﬀseason. Typically, the team brings in a mid-level free agent and builds through the draft. However, since they did not have a pick until the third round of the NFL Draft this year the team instead broke their trend of underspending. They knew they would be getting a middle tier player that may not break the starting lineup but could.
After building around their current roster, they could very well be leading the pack as Super Bowl favorites. With their oﬀense getting it done year after year, the pressure is never on the defense. As long as they unit can do enough to not let the game get too far from them Tom Brady will always be able to carry them to victory. He rarely has an oﬀ day so the offense just asks the defense to keep it close and they will hammer it home. They may face their toughest challenge this year with oﬀensive-powered teams but again, as long as they keep it close it could be smooth sailing to another 10+-win season. Nothing about the Patriots seems to be slowing down anytime soon. Can the rest of the league catch up, or will it be another New England Patriots led Super Bowl?
Editor’s Note: This article can also be seen in our upcoming NFL Preview Edition.