(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
While the news of Tedy Bruschi's retirement was shocking and saddening for us all, though I do imagine that I'm not the only New England fan excited to see how the defense performs this year.
Bruschi passes the torch on to Defensive Rookie of the Year Jerod Mayo, who looks to be one of this team's defensive leaders as he tries to build from an outstanding 2008—when he collected 98 solo tackles and forced one fumble.
The Pats also have some familiar faces up front with Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren, Adalius Thomas, and Richard Seymour. But the rest of the defense is packed with fresh rookies and more experienced veterans.
Perhaps the most interesting position to watch could be right inside linebacker, as the Patriots will look for someone to step up in place of Bruschi.
Gary Guyton looks like he will be the starter, but questions have been raised as to whether he will be a three-down linebacker.
Paris Lenon, Shawn Crable, and Eric Alexander could also see some time in Bruschi's spot.
In the wake of Rodney Harrison announcing his retirement in June, it shall also be interesting to see how safeties James Sanders and Brandon Meriweather continue to develop.
Meriweather, a three-year veteran from Miami, has turned into a ball-hawking leader in the secondary. He was all over the place in 2008, recording two sacks, four interceptions, and 57 solo tackles while forcing two fumbles in 11 starts.
Sanders, who will turn 26 in November, continues to be a solid option at safety, as he had 64 tackles in 14 starts last year. However, in the long run, expect to see Patrick Chung take over at free safety for Sanders.
And finally, we have the cornerbacks. Belichick completely revamped this area of the defense, and it is my belief that it was last year's cornerback play that was responsible for the Patriots having the worst secondary in the league.
Perhaps the biggest addition to the cornerback corps was Leigh Bodden. Bodden had a bit of a down year last year with Detroit, but in 2007 with Cleveland he was phenomenal, collecting six interceptions and 76 solo tackles.
To his credit, he did have a career high three forced fumbles last year, and all in all, Bodden should be a tremendous upgrade over Ellis Hobbs, who was weak in pass coverage.
Lining up opposite from Bodden will be either Jonathan Wilhite or Shawn Springs. Wilhite, 25, played in all 16 games last year but only started four of them. In those 16 games, he had 20 solo tackles and one interception.
Overall, it looks like a good defense. It may not be the same as the crew that was ranked fourth best in the league in 2007, or in the top 10 in 2003 and 2004, but the potential for greatness is certainly there.