Photo taken from ctpost.com
The team's top two draft choices from last April's draft, Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower, are off to a very impressive start.
After being taken with the No. 21 and No. 25 overall selections, respectively, Jones and Hightower are being called upon to play a big role in fixing a defense that ranked 31st in the league in 2011.
At first, many expected that these two players—particularly the raw but superbly talented Jones—would need a bit of seasoning before they were ready to contribute. But, from what has been reported out of camp thus far, these two seem primed to contribute right away.
Jones is an extremely gifted athlete with long arms and great athleticism that will help him get around blockers on the edge. At 6'5" and 265 pounds, he could be a matchup nightmare for opposing offenses. In fact, during joint practices with the New Orleans Saints this week, Saints left tackle Jermon Bushrod was so impressed by Jones that he was quoted as saying:
"He looks like a [Jason] Pierre-Paul type, the way he comes off the ball. He has long arms, he's a tall guy and he has good speed. If you let him get into your chest, he has power enough to bull you.
I really can't comment on him too much because I'm not here grinding with him every day, but just today's battle and seeing him out here, I think he's going to have a promising future."
That is a pretty lofty comparison, and it's coming from a guy that knows a thing or two about opposing puss rushers.
Hightower—regarded as the more NFL-ready of the two—has also put on quite a show so far. At 6'4" and 270 pounds, he possesses similar size to Jones, but will be called upon to play a different role in the defense.
Although he has solid pass rush skills and is versatile enough to play any of the linebacker positions, he has seen most of his time in the middle, especially with the absence of Brandon Spikes throughout the last few sessions. His raw power and extremely high football IQ make him the ideal fit for this type of role.
While most teams consider themselves lucky to have just one first-round pick work out for them each season, the Patriots seem to have been fortunate enough to land two of them in 2011.