I was sitting around today thinking about the New England Patriots' defense going into this season. On paper, they look pretty solid except for linebacker. I still think they'll bring in Jason Taylor or Julius Peppers to help out there, though.
It looks like they'll also throw most of their draft picks at defense in the upcoming draft. Here is a look at how their defense stands now.
Starter: Vince Wilfork. Still one of the top nose tackles in the league. Re-signing him is one of the Pats' top concerns.
Top backup: Mike Wright. Nice backup at nose tackle or defensive end. Just signed a four-year deal.
Left Defensive End
Starter: Ty Warren. Had a down year in 2008, but still one of the best 3-4 linemen around.
Top backup: Le Kevin Smith. A lot like Wright; I think Smith will get more playing time this year with a lot of the other players being in their last year.
Right Defensive End
Starter: Richard Seymour. Led the team with eight sacks last year. This might be his last year with the team, though.
Top backup: Jarvis Green. Nice utility pass rusher. He might also be gone in 2010.
Starter #1: Tedy Bruschi. He's starting to wind down. May lose his starting job to Guyton or a draft pick.
Starter #2: Jerod Mayo. Reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year. Should anchor the inside for years to come.
Top backup: Gary Guyton. Played well for an undrafted rookie. Might start in 2009. Should be nickel linebacker at worst.
Starter #1: Adalius Thomas. Hasn't lived up to his contract so far. I think Belichick is gonna put him in Vrabel's old role.
Starter #2: Pierre Woods. Right now he looks like a starter. Will probably lose out to a free agent signing or a draft pick.
Top backup #1: Tully Banta-Cain. Nice special teamer. Can rush the passer on third down.
Top backup #2: Shawn Crable. Hasn't shown anything so far. Might start or might not make roster.
Starter: James Sanders. Average player. Might have to compete with Springs.
Top backup: Shawn Springs. Could start at safety or corner. Might be top backup at both.
Starter: Brandon Meriweather. Looks like a play maker. I think he's gonna have a nice '09 season.
Top backup: Tank Williams. Not sure if he can stay healthy. Can help here and as a nickel linebacker.
Starter: Leigh Bodden. Has the skills to start. Is going have to battle with Springs, Wheatley, and Wilhite to do so.
Top backup: Johnathan Wilhite. Played well in 2009. If he doesn't start then he should see plenty of time in nickel and dime.
Starter: Ellis Hobbs III. In a serious fight to keep his starting job. Might get shifted to the nickel.
Top backup: Terrence Wheatley. Was injured most of last year. Will get lots of playing time in third down packages.
That's how I see things shaking out so far. I'm sure the Patriots will bolster their defense even more through the draft. I would like to hear anyone else's thoughts on their defense.