New England Patriots: Frantic Offseason Puts a Good Defense in Foxboro

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New England Patriots: Frantic Offseason Puts a Good Defense in Foxboro
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

We've seen this Bill Belichick before.

This is Angry Bill. Angry Bill gets angry because he sees his team fail repeatedly in one area and lose football games as a result, immune to X's and O's, handicapped by a lack of talent on the field.

The good thing is that when Belichick gets mad, the New England Patriots tend to improve. Quickly. And drastically. This season seems to be another example.

With the incredible snatching of free-agent defensive end and former Jets mainstay Shaun Ellis, Belichick, director of player personnel Nick Caserio and everyone else involved in shaping the Patriots' roster have turned a laughable Patriots defense into a force to be reckoned with, seemingly overnight.

In doing so, they've addressed the one weakness in what was a rock-solid Patriots squad. New England lost to the Jets last January because New York won every area in which toughness was an issue. The offensive line uncharacteristically buckled, but the defense was prone to such letdowns.

All season long, no one could break through the line and rush the passer, and no one could make a play to get the defense off the field on third down. When push came to shove, the Patriots defense's only hope was an interception or fumble recovery. When it had to make a stand, it failed. Over and over again.

Not anymore.

Belichick made sure this season would be different. The Patriots drafted cornerback Ras-I Dowling to boost the secondary. They added colossal talent and headcase Albert Haynesworth to form arguably the best defensive line interior in the league.

And then they pulled off the biggest shocker, bringing in Ellis to complete the project. Unlike the previous moves, this wasn't just about the on-the-field production. Belichick was glaring at Rex Ryan when he pulled the trigger, all too happy to answer the Jets' numerous on- and off-field jabs with a haymaker to their heart.

It's difficult to overstate the weight the rivalry between the teams has in the signing. Ellis was a career Jet, a Tedy Bruschi of the Meadowlands. He was a free agent, but he never got both feet out the door. He was supposed to return to New York. He had to return to New York.

And now he's headed to Foxboro. And suddenly, the Patriots defense is looking pretty darn solid.

We've seen this before. In 2002, the Patriots were woefully inept on defense and missed out on the playoffs. In 2003, Belichick and Scott Pioli got Rosevelt Colvin and Rodney Harrison and drafted Asante Samuel, Eugene Wilson and Ty Warren. That year, the Patriots had the top-ranked defense in the league and won the Super Bowl.

In 2006, the Patriots blew an 18-point lead in the AFC championship game against Indianapolis. The defense was old and sluggish, and the offense, featuring future Hall of Famers Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney as the top two wideouts, was anemic. In 2007, the Patriots added Adalius Thomas, Wes Welker and Randy Moss, and came less than a minute from a fourth Lombardi Trophy.

And now, we're seeing the same spark from Belichick. His team was good enough to win last year, minus one area. And now, after trades and signings that have gotten more and more stunning, that area could very well be a strength come kickoff.

Vince Wilfork, Haynesworth and Ellis on the line. It's a situation nobody in New England could have seen coming.

But when Angry Bill is at the controls, there's no telling what will happen.

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