Through the opening weeks of the 2012 regular season, Bill Belichick had finally cracked the code on what’s made the recent New England Patriots defensive units seems so….un-Belichickian. At the risk of sounding academic, “Belichickian” is probably the best word to describe the Patriots during their run of three Super Bowl wins in four years from 2001 to 2004.
I’m of the mind that Belichick’s defensive brilliance hasn’t really suffered in the near-decade since their last title — gosh, makes me feel old to even say — but that the team has ramped up its focus on offensive additions while suffering a mix of draft-misses and injuries. While the offensive unit is consistently greater than any during their championship years, the defense has not consistently reached their early-aughts form.
New England would close out 2012 finishing 25th in total defense but ninth in scoring defense, still showing the bend-but-don’t-break savvy that great defensive coaching and situational adjustments can provide despite the personnel. However, in this case I think in the personnel on roster — if healthy — is actually strong enough to return to the upper echelon in 2013, and that starts with the X-factor that is Chandler Jones.
The rookie out of Syracuse started his career red-hot last year to inject a sorely needed pass rush into a unit that has largely lacked it for years, with Jones recording five sacks and 15 hurries during the first six games before ankle injuries slowed him down. Now he’s put on 10 pounds of muscle for training camp in aiming to bring edge-pressure at 270 pounds.
“I had a great offseason. I put on a lot of weight, a lot of muscle actually,” Jones said told Patriots Football Weekly. “My biggest thing wasn’t just putting on weight. Some guys will put on weight and they’ll run slower. I feel like I really haven’t missed a step with the 10 pounds added. The weight was good. It’s muscle mass.”