2011 Starters: Andre Carter, Brandon Deaderick, Mark Anderson, Shaun Ellis
2012 Contenders: Rob Ninkovich, Trevor Scott, Chandler Jones, Andre Carter and Brandon Deaderick
Ninkovich chipped in 6.5 sacks last year, which was good enough for third on the team. He's got 10.5 over the last two years and is likely to be put in a position to terrorize the quarterback again this year. It looks as if he's making the full-time transition to end, where he played while at Purdue.
He's one heck of a versatile player, in the mold of former No. 50 Mike Vrabel who also played defensive end in college. With Ellis and Anderson out of the picture, I'd expect Ninkovich to pick up a lot of the slack at end.
Deaderick and free-agent acquisition Jonathan Fanene appear to be ticketed for defensive tackle duties, but there's a lot of time left in camp for things to change.
At this point, though, it looks like Scott, another free-agent addition, is most likely to handle the other side of the defensive front.
Jones, the Patriots' first-rounder, is only 22 and will likely need some time to adjust to this level of play. While his prospects are sky high, it's way too early to project him starting over other proven commodities.
If Carter and New England agree on a reunion, this grouping gets even more dangerous, to the point of looking like a Super Bowl-caliber squad.