New England Patriots have Best Defense in Entire NFL


It is not with the most likely mix of players, but the New England Patriots’ defense has been incredible this season. They are the best defensive unit in the NFL.

Over the off season, the New England Patriots lost cornerback Darrell Revis to the New York Jets in free agency. On top of that, they also moved along from fellow starting cornerback Brandon Browner, and their primary slot corner in Kyle Arrington. Basically, the Patriots lost their top three cornerbacks, who played a large role in their Super Bowl victory, and most around the league figured their defense was in trouble.

They did not replace them with any sort of major additions at the position, but instead brought in replacement level veterans like Bradley Fletcher and Tarell Brown. Bill Belichick and the Patriots clearly had confidence in the players they had on the roster, most notably undrafted free agent turned Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler and the inconsistent, yet talented Logan Ryan.

The Patriots also supplemented their pass rush, led by the addition of Jabaal Sheard and the return of defensive tackle Dominique Easley from injury. Rookies Malcom Brown, Geneo Grissom and Trey Flowers were also drafted to bring much-needed depth up front.

Instead of having shutdown options like Revis in the secondary, the Patriots were ready to have the front seven be the strength of their defense. Well, we are ten weeks into the season, and that sure seemed like a great move. The Patriots not only stand undefeated at 10-0, they have the single best scoring defense in the NFL, leading the way by only allowing 18.2 points per game.

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The Patriots’ defensive success can probably be primary pointed to their shut down run defense. They currently stand as the second best run defense in the NFL, allowing only 88.8 yards per game on the ground. They are getting incredible play up front by Brown and Alan Branch who have become the primary run defenders for the team at defensive tackle, while Easley is their major interior pass rusher.

At defensive end, Sheard and Rob Ninkovich have played well both against the run and in the pass rush, but it is Chandler Jones who is making an All-Pro like impact.

Jones has drastically improved against the run this season, forcing opposing offenses to run away from him on a consistent basis. On top of that, Jones has taken his pass rush game to another level. He has led the league in sacks for a majority of the season, and currently trails J.J. Watt by a single sack with 10.5.

Jones has become a major play-maker for the Patriots against the run and pass. He is clearly a huge part of their success.

At linebacker, Jamie Collins was having an All-Pro caliber season before an illness has held him out of the last three games. Collins is reportedly feeling better, and seems likely to suit up this week against the Denver Broncos. Collins is an elite talent at the linebacker position, who become a jack-of-all-trades for their defense.

He is arguably the premier pass coverage linebacker in the NFL, shows great pass rush prowess and is dominant against the run. Collins is a true superstar who makes the Patriots’ defense much better when he is on the field.

Collins’ running mate is Dont’a Hightower, who has a similar wide-ranging effect on the Patriots’ defense. Hightower is probably a better run defender than Collins, and while he is not as amazing in pass coverage he does very well.

Oct 25, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots outside linebacker Dont’a Hightower (54) celebrates with outside linebacker Jamie Collins (91) and outside linebacker Geneo Grissom (92) after sacking New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (not pictured) during the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Hightower is also proving to be an extremely effective pass rusher when the Patriots allow him to attack the QB. They typically pick their spots carefully when to blitz Hightower, but he almost always puts extreme pressure on the passer.

Jerrod Mayo has had a much more limited role this season than ever before, but he has proved to make a huge impact on the Patriots’ run defense. He is a major reason for their success in that department. Jonathan Freeny has taken on more of the third linebacker role for the Patriots, and while his coverage skills need some work, he has been a nice player for them.

Led by a strong pass rush and incredible linebacker player, the Patriots have arguably the best front seven in the entire NFL. Their play up front is elite, and that certainly helps them across the board.

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While they no longer have Revis, the Patriots have seemed to have found a strong shut down option at cornerback in Butler. He made the massive play in the Super Bowl, but Butler is proving that he is not a flash in the pan.

With natural coverage skills, underrated athleticism and a strong nose for the football, Butler has been able to take on a huge role for the Patriots this season. He is typically lined-up against the opposing team’s best wide receiver, and gets very little help from the rest of the defense in coverage. While he is not perfect, Butler has done an incredible job handling some of the best receivers in the game this season.

Butler is a clear shut down corner in the making.

Ryan has done a nice job handling himself opposite of Butler, but he has undoubtedly been helped out by not having to take on the best receiver, and is typically the one to receive more safety help. Devin McCourty is usually lined-up on Ryan’s side of the field, and can usually make up for his mistakes.

Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon and Tavon Wilson have been heavily involved in the mix in the secondary as well. The Patriots have been playing a lot of three safety sets, with one of them defending the slot receiver (usually Wilson or McCourty) and Chung typically getting the tight end.

It has been an interesting mix of players in the secondary for the Patriots, but they are making it work. The success of the front seven undoubtedly has a lot to do with it, but Butler and McCourty are leading a strong back-end of the defense.

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When it comes down to it, the Patriots have the best defensive unit in the entire NFL. The injuries on the offensive side of the ball is making it difficult for Tom Brady and company, but the Patriots’ defense is more than capable to pick up the slack.

This is undoubtedly a Super Bowl caliber defense. While Brady, Rob Gronkowski and the offense will get most of the headlines, Jones, Collins, Hightower, Butler and the Patriots’ defense is a huge reason for their success this season.