The NFL is just 12 days away from its first mandatory roster cut where tough decisions will have to be made. The New England Patriots have had one major concern plaguing them over the last two seasons, their defense.
This preseason boasts an extremely promising young group coming to New England for the next few seasons under the guidance of defensive mastermind Bill Belichick.
27th overall pick Devin McCourty will add young depth at the cornerback position where no starter has been on the roster for more than three seasons.
The biggest surprise will come from second year cornerback Kyle Arrington, who survived the 53 man cut in 2009 and looks to do the same in 2010. Arrington serves as a multi-purpose cornerback where he has the speed and strength to be a special teams sniper.
The biggest struggle for New England's comes at linebacker. Veterans Tully Banta-Cain and Derrick Burgess will be the teachers of a linebacking core that carries three rookies (Jermaine Cunningham, Dane Fletcher, and Brandon Spikes) and a converted defensive lineman (Rob Ninkovich). Likely cuts at the position are Tyrone McKenzie and Marques Murrell.
The safety position in New England has been a free touchdown for any pass friendly team in the last few seasons. Hard hitting Brandon Meriwether is slowly becoming the role-player the New England scouts envisions back when they drafted him in 2007.
Whereas sixth year veteran Brandon McGowan is slowly filling the expectations fans and coached hoped he would. The 26-year-old, former Chicago bear, is an injury prone risk that was known when New England originally signed him as an unrestricted free agent in 2009. McGowan posted career highs in multiple categories in 2009 in a secondary that needs him to produce bigger numbers in 2010.
New England will also look to take away the running game that ran through the middle of the field like they were a high school freshman squad in 2009.
The addition of Gerard Warren, a former third overall draft pick back in 2001 will add some size to a defensive line that already sits two giants with Vince Wilfork and Mike Wright.
The major concern is the depth behind the veteran crew. Three rookies (Kade Weston, Kyle Love, and Brandon Deaderick) will attempt to make the cut at a position that currently has 11 players with only four starting roles.
With the mix of rookie ego and veteran mentality it is a roster that is very similar to 2002, where the team failed to make the playoffs.
This season will have its ups and downs but the 17th ranked defense in most mock season predictions will have a beyond average season that will make the experts look silly when they do not give any credit where at least some credit is due.