Dec 11, 2011; Landover, MD, USA; New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (far left) is congratulated by cornerback Devin McCourty (32) and cornerback Julian Edelman (11) and safety James Ihedigbo (44) after Wilfork scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery in the first quarter against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-US PRESSWIRE

New England Patriots: Defensive Names to Watch


With the NFL season quickly approaching here are five players on Defense

I am most interested in for the upcoming season.

Don’t’a Hightower, LB

The physicality and athleticism of the Patriots linebacker corps (Spikes, Mayo, Hightower) is tremendous but lacks depth. Hightower must be able to step in and make an impact in his rookie season. Hightower has great range and speed with his size and is known to play with an edge that the Pats could certainly use. The Patriots went all in on defense when drafting Hightower and Jones in the first round and it must pay off.

Chandler Jones, DE

The Patriots must be able to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks and Jones could be the answer. Jones is another young, defensive player that the Patriots are depending on to make an immediate impact. The first round pick will have Ninkovich on the other end and together they need to find ways to get to the quarterback.

Devin McCourty, CB 

After a fantastic rookie season, McCourty has his sophomore slump that led to many doubters. McCourty can’t afford another mediocre and underperforming season and must return to his rookie form. The Patriots were picked apart last year by opposing passing attack and McCourty playing at his highest level would certainly be a help.

Ras-I Dowling, CB

Dowling missed most of his rookie season with a hip injury so we never really got to see what he is capable of. Dowling is set to be a starter this year after a solid training camp but will he be able to perform in game situations? He is larger than McCourty and the Patriots can use that to their advantage with match-ups.

Jermaine Cunningham, LB 

Cunningham was injured for most of last season after getting 11 starts in 2010 so people wonder if he can return to his old form. He has also the physical attributes to be a very solid starter but he will need to prove himself because he is currently behind Hightower, Spikes, and Mayo. The Patriots had high hopes for Cunningham when he was drafted and hopefully he can live up to these expectations.

Tags: Chandler Jones Devin McCourty Dont'a Hightower Featured Jermaine C New England Patriots Popular Ras-I Dowling