The New England Patriots had an odd squad on defense during the 2011 season. Even though they were marred as the 31st ranked defense, they weren't all that poor in reality.
The unit managed to fly under the radar and ranked 15th in points allowed at 21.4 points per game. Not to mention, the Pats intercepted 23 passes and recovered 11 fumbles.
In the end, this group seized their opportunities and came up just short.
Now in 2012, the defense will look a little different.
Andre Carter, Shaun Ellis, Tracy White, Gerard Warren, Mark Anderson, James Ihedigbo and Gary Guyton are all free agents. Which of these men will re-sign in the off-season?
Not only will the roster change, but the scheme likely will as well.
Towards the end of last season, the Patriots flexed between the 4-3 and 3-4 defensive front. ESPNBoston.com writer Mike Reiss interviewed Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio at the NFL Scouting Combine. When asked about the defensive formation, Caserio dodged the question and merely stated that New England was in their sub packages about 65 to 70 percent of the time in 2011.
With the future unforeseen, it appears as though the 3-4 front is working its way back into favor in New England.
Considering the free agents, potential draft picks and a possible alteration in scheme, the following players should be starters on the Patriots' 2012 defense.