No NFL franchise in the modern era has been as consistently successful as the New England Patriots. Just like every July, a buzz of excitement is surrounding the Patriots as training camp opens. However, more so than the past few seasons, the Patriots have a serious chance of running the table in 2014 and becoming the first team to go 19-0.
The foundation of a championship-winning football team is defense, as the Seattle Seahawks displayed in February. There’s just no getting around it — to win the Super Bowl, a team must field a top-notch defense. The Patriots’ soft units of the past several seasons have been the team’s Achilles heel come playoff time. Sure, the offense carries the Pats deep into the postseason every year, but the defense has failed to hold up their end of the bargain which has proved costly.
Well, no one is more aware of that weakness than Bill Belichick and the rest of the Patriots’ brain trust. Over the offseason, the Pats added a handful of defensive players who will make the team very difficult to defeat.
The secondary is looking as formidable as ever after the offseason additions of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. Don’t forget about young cornerbacks Alfonzo Dennard and Logan Ryan, either; both will be motivated to prove their worth among a crowded depth chart. At safety, Devin McCourty is approaching elite status, and fellow Rutgers alum Duron Harmon, who is slated to start next to D-Mac, showed promise as a rookie last year.
Take one look at the Patriots’ regular season schedule, and you’ll see that the team pretty much had no choice but to chase after Revis and Browner in free agency. The Pats face some of the biggest and best receivers in the league this year: A.J. Green, Brandon Marshall, T.Y. Hilton, Demaryius Thomas and Calvin Johnson. It was paramount that the Patriots added size and star power to the cornerback position so that they could compete with AFC powerhouses and the pass-happy NFC North division.
For the pass rush, Dominique Easley and Will Smith will bolster a unit that has been frustrating as of late. Those additions will help free up space for Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich and Jamie Collins to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. Additionally, Vince Wilfork and cohort Tommy Kelly are eager to resume their roles on the interior of the defensive line after they both sat out most of last season with injuries.
Because the secondary will benefit from the upgraded front seven and the pass rush will benefit from the upgraded secondary, the Patriots will have one of the NFL‘s best defenses this season. That alone will make games against the likes of the Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos much more winnable.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the Patriots’ roster features arguably the best quarterback of all time. Tom Brady will always put the Patriots in position to win games, string Ws together and be victorious in January and February. But what Brady has missed since the mid-2000s is a top-flight defense, and now that he has one, look out.