Three Reasons the New England Patriots Will NOT make the Super Bowl in 2015

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Sep 14, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New England Patriots defensive tackle Dominique Easley (74) intercepts a pass in front of Minnesota Vikings guard Brandon Fusco (63) and center John Sullivan (65) in the fourth quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. The Patriots win 30-7. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

With the loss of Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Kyle Arrington and Alfonzo Dennard the cornerbacks will be under the microscope through the preseason and into the regular season. However, the Patriots’ defense is in position to take pressure off the cornerbacks with an improved front seven. With penetrating defensive tackles, speed-rushers on the outside, and blitzing linebackers, the Patriots can mitigate the losses in the secondary with an attacking style of defense.

The Patriots are counting on this season’s first round draft pick Malcom Brown and last year’s first round draft pick Dominique Easley to transform the middle of the defense and give New England an inside pass rush. Veteran Alan Branch and Chris Jones can also bring some pressure, but not like the two youngsters should. Branch has not practiced yet this summer and Brown is dinged up (nothing serious it seems) but the Patriots need production from those untested young players.

Aug 22, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones (95) reacts after taking down Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) in the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

On the outside, starters Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich have been joined by Cleveland’s Jabaal Sheard and rookies Geneo Grissom (third round), Trey Flowers (fourth round), and Xzavier Dickson (seventh round). From the trio of rookies and Sheard, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is counting on the young players to inject a strong pass rush and spell Jones and Ninkovich to keep them rested and explosive.

At linebacker, the Patriots have impressive young players Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins joined by veteran Jerod Mayo. Hightower had offseason shoulder surgery and Mayo is coming back from a season-ending knee injury. Both Collins and Hightower showed impressive blitz skills last year. Last year (subscription required) had Collins rated first in the NFL for inside linebackers in their pass rushing productivity statistic as he brought pressure on 25.3% of his pass rushes. Hightower was no slouch either ranking seventh at the position getting pressure 16.1% of the time he rushed the passer.

Hightower and Collins are both extremely athletic and played well covering running backs and tight ends last season as well. In 2013 Hightower stepped up and showed huge improvement once Mayo was on the sidelines and he received regular playing time at strongside linebacker.

The Patriots struggled early in the season integrating the three linebackers into the defense (Collins did not play much in the first half of 2013 as a rookie). However, some creativity with the front seven should allow for the team to keep the trio on the field together.

For the Patriots defense to keep the pressure off their depleted cornerback depth, the Patriots need a number of young players to have an immediate impact in 2015. If they cannot create havoc in the passing game, the cornerbacks could be exposed and the defense could be in a tough spot in 2015.