While the majority of a dominant, Super Bowl-winning squad returns on defense, some lingering question marks remain on the front line.
The New England Patriots are finally, mercifully within striking range of resuming their first significant activity since early June. In a little more than a week’s time, Foxborough will be buzzing with action and intrigue as the team really gets started with the business of defending their Super Bowl championship.
Most analysts and experts have identified four key areas as potential weaknesses on this year’s team. Three of those four areas are on offense, as there are legitimate concerns about the Patriots’ options at left tackle, wide receiver, and tight end this season.
The fourth area of contention is on defense… specifically along the defensive line.
Anyone who watched Super Bowl 53 will admit that it was the New England defense (and punting unit) that essentially sealed the victory over Los Angeles. And while that defense largely returns intact for an encore performance in 2019, several important members from last year’s team are still gone.
Malcom Brown, who anchored the middle of the defensive line for most of the past four seasons, signed with the New Orleans Saints in free agency. Adrian Clayborn, a situational edge rusher with over eight years of NFL experience, was granted his release by the team and promptly re-signed with his old squad, the Atlanta Falcons.
Of course, the biggest departure from the New England defense (and arguably from the team as a whole) was versatile defensive end Trey Flowers, who inked a mammoth five-year, $90 million deal to play for ex-coordinator Matt Patricia’s Detroit Lions.
Elsewhere on Belichick’s defense, both in the linebacking corps and in the secondary, virtually every 2018 starter returns in 2019.