NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS NEWS: Revamped Defense Stresses Speed, Athleticism

 @gptweet
on August 15 2012 3:26 PM
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady looks to pass the ball against the Miami Dolphins in the second quarter of their NFL football game in Foxborough, Massachusetts January 2, 2011.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady looks to pass the ball against the Miami Dolphins in the second quarter of their NFL football game in Foxborough, Massachusetts January 2, 2011. REUTERS

The New England Patriots can't expect Tom Brady to throw for 5,000+ yards every season.

The three-time Super Bowl MVP rifled the Pats to a 13-3 record and a Super Bowl berth, no thanks in part to the 31st ranked pass and the 17th ranked rush defenses.

New England's plan to take pressure off of Brady's arm and improve the defense appears to be a trade-off of size for a quicker, more athletic defensive front to battle what is now an aerial attack NFL.

Head coach Bill Belichick first addressed the problem with the Pats first two picks of the 2012 draft: defensive end Chandler Jones out of Syracuse and one of the anchors of Alabama's 2012 national title team in linebacker Dont'a Hightower.

The NFL has become more of a pass oriented league since new rules have limited defensive players and how hard they can hit opposing receivers, making pressuring the quarterback into poor decisions all the more important.

Jones barely tips the scales at 266-pounds but can create leverage with his nearly 6-foot-6 frame. Hightower fills out his 6-foot-2 shell at 265-pounds and can use his speed to come around the edge. Both should help the New England pass attack and add to the speed and nimble footwork of veterans Rob Ninkovich and Jerod Mayo, who led the team with 95 tackles in 2011.

Furthermore, New England inked defensive ends Trevor Scott and Alex Silvestro, and pried Jonathan Fanene from the Cincinnati Bengals in March. Together all three only average about 265-pounds.

This isn't to say the Pats have completely compressed their defensive line. New England still has six players weighing in at plus-300 pounds, such as stalwart defensive tackles Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love.

Compared to their AFC East rival New York Jets, who have seven listed at 300-pounds, New England isn't taking the weight drop too far.

Still shedding some heft will make for a much faster defensive line and take some weight off Brady's arm late in games.

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