New England Patriots: Defense wins championships

Ever since the big three, Teddy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, and Richard Seymour left, the New England Patriots’ defense hasn’t been the same.

Last season the Patriots finished last in yards allowed. I know the defense struggled with injuries all season long, but with the uncertain future of centerpiece Vince Wilfork, I’m a bit concerned. Luckily, the draft is right around the corner, and there are number of defensive prospects to choose from because if the Patriots want to get over that AFC Championship hump then they’ll have to remember that defense wins championships.

If the 325-pound Wilfork doesn’t come back next season, the Patriots have a mammoth-sized hole to fill; however, Notre Dame may have the man for the job. Despite having an injury prone senior season, Louis Nix III, weighing in at 345 pounds, is the best nose tackle in the draft. He doesn’t record many tackles, but his presence in the trenches is all that’s necessary in stopping the run.

Steve Gregory is a good safety, but I don’t want someone that’s just good, I want someone that will knock the socks off of players; I want someone like Rodney Harrison. The Patriots finished 18th in passing yards allowed: that’s not good enough.

Calvin Pryor is a 6-foot-2 safety out of Louisville and he hits like a Mack Truck. He reminds me of Brandon Merriweather, but a lot smarter. He’s good in coverage and he’s not afraid to tackle, and when he does tackle it’s not a cheap headshot.

I thought, when they were healthy, the cornerback duo of Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Denard were exceptional last season, and Devin McCourty did a decent job as well, but if Talib comes back and with Pryor on the roster I believe this secondary can finally be legitimate.

With Brandon Spikes and Dane Fletcher as free agents, and despite the decent play of Jimmy Collins, the Patriots may stretch and take a linebacker. BYU’s Nick Van Noy at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds is a bit small for the position, but whatever he lacks in size he makes it up with versatility. He is more than capable of dropping back in coverage, but where he really shines is in rushing the quarterback, something the Patriots struggled with during the AFC Championship game.

This year’s draft is filled with good defensive lineman, a perfect situation for the New England Patriots, a team who finished 30th in rushing yards allowed. I believe Jadeveon Clowney is a freak of nature and in a league of his own, but the player that comes closes is Minnesota’s versatile defensive lineman Ra’Shede Hageman. Standing at 6-foot-6 and weighing over 300 pounds, Ra’Shede Hageman is turning a lot of heads. Bill Feldman of CBS Sports said: “Not only does he have the 36-inch vert, but he also has bench-pressed 465 pounds and clocked an electronically timed 10-yard sprint in 1.57 seconds.”

The defensive side of the ball is obviously the Patriots main priority, and hopefully they’ll find some good players to fill their needs, but in a draft class like this it’s kind of hard to miss. Then again, who knows? Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick are known for their curveballs on draft day; they are in need of interior linemen, which is a position the Pats love to draft, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they chose someone like Notre Dame’s Zack Martin.