For the final month leading up to the regular season, I will be featuring two “Over/Under” pieces per week. I’ll take a Patriots or AFC East topic and give you my opinion of whether we will see more (over) or less (under) than the number provided.
In the second installment in my 8-piece “Over/Under” series, we look at the defense. For the last few seasons New England’s defense, specifically the secondary, has been the weak point of the team. How does the unit look with the additions of Adrian Wilson, Tommy Kelly, and the rookie draft picks?
(Previous Over/Under Pieces: Tom Brady Passing Yards)
New England Patriots Defense: Over or Under 5,500 total yards allowed
Last season the Patriots allowed opponents to gain 5,972 yards. That is 373 yards per game. In order to allow less than 5,500 yards for the season, the Pats would have to drop below 344 yards per game.
Before Aqib Talib signed with New England in week 11, the Patriots had Devin McCourty starting at cornerback, and Kyle Arrington playing regularly on the outside. With Talib locked in for his first full season with the team, McCourty can remain a free safety. This is D-Mac’s first offseason training with the safeties; that will help tremendously in his transition to covering the top. With Adrian Wilson manning the box at strong safety, McCourty will have more reliability at the SS position (I don’t think anyone was impressed with Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory last season).
Vince Wilfork is already secured as one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL, and clearly elite at stopping the run. The addition of another big-body DT in Tommy Kelly will make it tough for teams to run the ball up the middle. We will have to wait and see what CFL star Armond Armstead brings to the table. He’s impressive on tape, but the CFL just isn’t the NFL… At all.
Chandler Jones lost 2 games to an ankle-injury, and injured the other ankle in the playoffs against the Houston Texans. If he stays healthy this season, he will easily improve on his 6 sacks in 2012. All 6 sacks came in the first half of the season, so clearly the ankle hindered Jones’s performance. With 3 starters in Jones, Dont’a Hightower, and Alfonzo Dennard all entering their second seasons, the Pats defense will have more chemistry and experience than last year. All 3 of those players will play a major role in the success of this team. They are the future for the Patriots.
Last season, the Pats defense was impressive in stopping the run. They were awful in pass-defense. Thankfully, the defense actually had a great offseason. All of the important pieces on defense remained with the team this offseason, and there will be continuity (something that was missing in recent seasons). If the draft picks can have any sort of impact, it would just be a bonus to an already improved unit.
In this case, this “Under” choice is better for the Pats than the “Over”. The 2009 season was the last time the Patriots’ defense held opponents to under 5,500 yards.
I predict the Patriots defense will allow 5,100 – 5,300 yards