As soon of you know, I'm not a complete homer when it comes to my opinions on the Pats and have been critical of them in several areas. That being said, I honestly believe that this defense is close to being very good.
Coming into this season, I was extremely skeptical of the pass rush. If most of you don't remember, we all thought Chandler Jones was too raw and would be a project. He exceeded my expectations in the first half season and then fell in line with what I thought we would get from him in the second half. Maybe you can attrivute it to a lingery ankle injury, I don't know, but I fully expect him to be better next season. Mayock thought that Jones would be the best defensive player from the draft in three seasons. It would be amazing if he can make the JPP type jump (4.5 sacks to 16 sacks), but I'll keep my expectations down. I think Jones can be a 10 sack guy next season and get more consistent pressure than he did this season.
I really hope this team can get a veteran edge rusher, even if he's just an obvious passing down rusher. I think Cunningham will get cut and I'm not ready to believe Justin Francis can be that guy. I wouldn't be opposed to spending the first round pick on the DE either, but veteran would be the best option IMO
I think the LBs are fine. I don't know what the status of Fletcher will be, but it wouldn't hurt to get a guy who is slightly better in coverage. But overall, it's a solid group. Giants LBs weren't that fast. Same with the Ravens.
Secondary is the biggest ?. Talib signing would be a big step forward. I honestly do not mind Kyle Arrington in the slot, but they need to find a quality backup in case of an injury. But a Dennard and Talib combo is not bad at all when healthy. This is assuming they don't start to suck with more coaching from these db coaches. A veteran safety would be nice too.
Really, other than another edge rusher and a starting safety, the only other areas that really concern me is depth. I honestly believe this team has most of the pieces it needs. It's all about these young players (Spikes, McCourty, Dennard, Hightower, and most importantly, Jones) taking the next step in their development.
IMO, Nink, Arrington, Gregory, Love, Deaderick are the starters on this team that are strictly system players.
Spikes, Hightower, Dennard, Jones, and McCourty all have play maker potential and have all been drafted 2010 or later.
Mayo, I'm not sure about. He's solid is what I'll give him. Wilfork is a beast.
Going into last season with a raw rookie as your supposed best pass rusher was a huge mistake. This is mostly a young defense and if they can resign talib, I think another year together will help with the continuity which I think is vital for a defense to improve as a unit.
I think this is an ascending unit. This isn't the Steelers who are getting older or the Ravens who will be broken up (Lewis retiring, Reed FA, Kruger FA, Williams FA, Ellerbe FA). This team doesn't need too many new players, its just needs the young players to develop.