If New England Goes Defense in the First Round, Are They Headed Back to “Old School Patriots Defense”?

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Do you remember the days of “old school Patriots football”?  The days when the Patriots went by the mantra of bend-but-don’t-break defense.  New England played this style of defense during their glory days in the mid-2000’s.  New England is now removed from the days of Vince Wilfork, Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, Ted Johnson and Willie McGinnest. 


Photo courtesy of Business Insider


The Patriots can go back to their roots on defense with their new core of players and an infusion of talent from the NFL Draft


Prior to the start of NFL free agency, the Patriots had holes all over their roster and they needed to get younger. Once free agency began, Head Coach Bill Belichick took out his credit card and began a shopping spree to improve his roster. 


The Patriots biggest defensive signing was former Ravens linebacker Matthew Judon.  The 6-foot-3, 261 pound linebacker signed a four-year, $56 million deal that included $32 million in guaranteed dollars. 


The 28-year-old Judon provides Belichick another option to pair alongside Dont’a Hightower.  The pairing of Judon and Hightower brings an attitude back to the Patriots defense similar to the days of when Bryan Cox and Roman Phifer roamed the field. 


If the Patriots opt to not select a quarterback in the first round on Thursday night adding Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons with Judon and Hightower would be scary. 


The Patriots already have Kyle Van Noy back in the fold and he provides another high-end type player for the line of scrimmage.  Adding Parsons in the mix, he would bring speed, size and athleticism.


Young linebackers Chase Winovich, Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings could be impacted from a development standpoint.  While that might be the case, you can never have enough good, young and talented players on the defensive side of the football. 


The Patriots beefed up on the defensive line too in free agency.  Lawrence Guy returned on a four-year deal.  He has been one of the most consistent players on defense over the last four seasons.  The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Guy will be accompanied by defensive tackle Montravius Adams on a one-year deal.  Adams is a former third-round pick out of Auburn has only played 595 total snaps.  He’s depth and replaces Adam Butler, who left for Miami in free agency. 


When push came to shove, Wilfork and any other big bodied defensive lineman were the anchors of their bend-but-don’t-break defense.


The secondary needs an injection of the fountain of youth.  Patrick Chung retired earlier in the offseason.  Devin McCourty is 33-years-old and playing on the back-nine of his career.  Stephon Gilmore is in the final year of his contract, and there is a possibility he could be traded during the NFL Draft. 


New England added Jalen Mills in free agency on a four-year, $24 million deal with $9 million guaranteed.  Kyle Dugger brings youth and athleticism from the safety position, and they have Adrian Phillips returning.  Dugger should fill the void Chung played over the years now that he’s retired. 


Belichick should utilize the draft to add cornerbacks to his roster.  UCF defensive back Tay Gowan is a sleeper that will go in the middle of the NFL Draft.  Pro Football Focus has Gowan ranked as the No. 8 best cornerback prospect coming out of college.  They also have them ranked No. 69 on their PFF Big Board.


Two other names to watch are Gowan’s teammate at UCF Aaron Robinson and Michigan corner Ambry Thomas. 


The Patriots have always had a strong defense to compliment their Tom Brady-led offenses.  With Brady removed and no replacement on the horizon, adding more young talented defensive players makes complete sense. 


Good drafting, great coaching and a young roster, the Patriots will be moving in the right direction.  The Patriots need to go back to what they’ve always done best, become inflexible on defense.  When the stakes are the highest they would never bend or break. 


The bend-but-don’t-break philosophy needs to come back to Foxboro and it begins again on Thursday.  



Follow Chris on Twitter @chrishenrique

Check out Fire the Muskets, the Syndicate’s podcast dedicated solely to the New England Patriots and the rest of the NFL.  Follow our Fire the Muskets Podcast on Twitter @FireTheMuskets.

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Boston Sports Syndicate: If New England Goes Defense in the First Round, Are They Headed Back to “Old School Patriots Defense”?
If New England Goes Defense in the First Round, Are They Headed Back to “Old School Patriots Defense”?
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