Defense Crumbling: Why The Patriots Have Cause For Concern in 2010

Ryan CookFeatured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2010

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10:  Adalius Thomas #96 of the New England Patriots looks on against the Baltimore Ravens during the 2010 AFC wild-card playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Ravens won 33-14. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

Okay, so the Patriots' season is over right now.  The Ravens handed them a loss, and at the moment things seem pretty relaxed in the land of New EnglandTom Brady has taken an early vacation, and head coach Bill Belichick can finally relax after what has been a hectic season at the helm of the dynasty.

One small hurdle became present today though in the Patriots' locker room.  Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees has decided to step down as the leader of the Patriots defense after a four year stint under the headset.

"I enjoyed my time in New England but feel this is the right time to pursue other opportunities," Pees said Thursday in a statement issued by the Patriots. "I had the privilege of working with some great coaches and great players over the past six seasons and leave the Patriots with some wonderful memories that will last a lifetime. In addition to the players and coaching staff, I want to thank the Kraft family, the media, and the fans for all of their support."

Maybe Pees' decision was justified.  After all, he is a 60-year-old man, and he isn't getting any younger.  However, I can't help but feel that the Patriots defense is in a bit of a mess at the moment.

Numerous times this season, small insecurities were present in the Patriots defense, and the loss of a true team leader was present all season long.  With Tedi Bruschi retiring to take a cushy job for ESPN, the Patriots also lost Asante Samuel to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2007, and the void at the corner back position has never really been filled.

The veteran Junior Seau did end up staying with the team after all, but when he was demoted to second string behind Eric Alexander, it was more money wasted than wins gained.

Vince Wilfork stuck with the Patriots also.  At times he showed promise during the season, but when he only played 13 games, he failed to record a sack.

To top it all off, Bill Belichick is none too pleased about how the Patriots exited the postseason with less than a whimper last Sunday.  Bill has never been one to get excited about anything, but let's just say his blood pressure is higher than Jamarcus Russell's food bill at the moment.

Ranked 11th overall in team defense on the regular season, the Patriots took a fall from grace from their usual top five spot.  It just proves that age is a killer in all areas of life.

With the loss of Pees today, Bill lost a promising defensive coordinator who helped the Patriots experience the success they have found in recent years.

The panic button hasn't been hit just yet, but the Patriots aren't going to exactly clean up in the draft in April either.  At the moment, the rebuilding phase has begun.  It was going to come sooner rather than later.  The Patriots couldn't stay great forever.  With this said though, if the Patriots fall significantly next season, expect drastic measures to be taken when New England fans begin to feel the same pain that Rams fans have experienced over the past five years.

From the greatest team in the decade and one of the most sound defensive teams in the league to a struggling team that barely makes .500, is this the question that we are going to face in years to come?  Well, maybe it could happen.  Right now though it is a bit of a stretch.

The Patriots can get it back together, possibly by trading for an experience safety or linebacker that can keep the team together.  If there is no better slogan in all of football, it is that "In Bill We Trust".