The Patriots defense is a little hard to figure out.
There’s certainly talent there, but at the same time, the Pats gave up more yards per game than most teams last season. That’s partly due to the fact there was just about zero quarterback pressure — you can only cover a man so long before he eventually gets open.
The Pats addressed the pressure problem, stocking up on D-linemen. It will be up to a group of linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties — led by LB Jerod Mayo?— to take advantage of the largesse.
Mayo will be joined by fellow linebacker Brandon Spikes, a member of the strong 2010 draft class.
Spikes has missed time in camp, but it doesn’t appear to be too serious. If he can keep his head on straight, the Mayo-Spikes combo could be deadly.
Mayo, the defensive captain, has vaulted to the top of the NFL’s list in terms of skills and smarts, bridging the gap from the Tedy Bruschi days to the here and now in New England.
It helps that he’s found his “Ty Law” in cornerback Devin McCourty.
McCourty made a legitimate run at defensive rookie of the year last season, and it appears in training camp that he’s picked up right where he left off.
Veteran Leigh Bodden is back in the mix, too, after missing the entire 2010 season with a torn rotator cuff. Bodden was the team’s No. 1 CB before he went down; expect him to be paired with McCourty.
As for safeties, Pat Chung, Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders get the job done. Meriweather needs to show improvement this season, though.