FOXBOROUGH - For many seasons, the Patriots were known for their prolific, high-octane offense (which we've already profiled), led by Tom Brady, the league's best quarterback. Last season, however, when the offense faltered, the defense rose to the occasion and bail the Patriots out of a number of tough situations, including the Super Bowl when the Patriots defeated the Los Angeles Rams by a score of only 13-3.
To limit the Rams offense, which boasted Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, and Brandin Cooks, among other quality players, took an enormous effort on the part of head coach Bill Belichick and de facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores. But the heart of the defense began with the defensive line. The line was led by Trey Flowers and Malcom Brown, but since the off-season began, Flowers joined the Detroit Lions and Brown signed with the New Orleans Saints.
With both of these players elsewhere, leadership will have to arise from a different source, and I'm betting it will be from Deatrich Wise Jr. Wise started just 5 games last season, but he played in all 16 and made his impact known when called upon. He recorded 30 combined tackles last season, including 4 for a loss, which are not huge numbers for a defensive lineman, but his blocking and pressure on the quarterback helped in intangible ways. I think Wise is ready to make the leap.
Wise is the left defensive end, and will be joined by Lawrence Guy at left defensive tackle, Mike Pennel at right defensive tackle, and Michael Bennett at right defensive end. Pennel is another defensive lineman with minimal statistics, but his impact comes from his status as a brick wall against opposing run games. He might be New England's best off-season addition (and its most underrated) since adding him from the New York Jets. Bennett is obviously another big pick-up, but many believe his prime is behind him. He will still be able to contribute in a healthy way, and hopefully he can still be the electric defender he was during his time with the Seattle Seahawks.
Lastly, Guy is New England's best system lineman as he started 15 out of 16 games last season and racked up 59 combined tackles, 11 quarterback hits, and 1 forced fumble during that time. With Wise on the rise, a pair of helpful off-season additions, and the extremely talented Guy on the line, the Patriots' defensive line should rebound well from the losses of Brown and Flowers.
Image via Wikimedia / Jeffrey Beall