BOSTON -- On the whole, the Patriots had a very good defense last year. They ranked second in the NFL in points allowed and fourth in yards allowed. They allowed the second-fewest passing yards in the league and the fourth-fewest touchdowns, while ranking second in interceptions and tied for third in all takeaways.
In practice, though, the defense showed holes, especially in the Patriots' final two games against the Bills. Buffalo had seven real possessions in the final regular-season meeting with New England, scoring six times and punting zero times. In the playoffs, the Bills scored touchdowns on their first seven drives of the game en route to a brutal blowout of Bill Belichick's team.
The Patriots' defense allowed 27 or more points six times last year (including the playoffs), and the team lost all six of those games.
Clearly, the Patriots need their defense to be a bit better going forward. But based on some polling conducted by ESPN, folks around the league do not expect that improvement to come.
ESPN's Jeremy Fowler has been sharing the results of voting from 50 executives, coaches, scouts and players from around the NFL who were asked to rank their top 10 players at a position. Thus far, the results for edge rusher, off-ball linebacker, and defensive tackle have been released. And thus far, zero Patriots have made any lists.
Of the 10 best interior defensive linemen listed, none were Patriots. Of the four honorable mentions, none were Patriots. Of the six remaining players who also received votes, none were Patriots.
Of the 10 best edge rushers listed, none were Patriots. Of the five honorable mentions, none were Patriots. Of the remaining three players who also received votes, none were Patriots.
And of the 10 best off-ball linebackers listed, none were Patriots. Of the eight honorable mentions, none were Patriots. And of the six players who also received votes, none were Patriots.
Of course, one could easily point out that the likes of Lawrence Guy, Matthew Judon, or even Christian Barmore might have been snubbed. But the point is that among 50 people in the league, not a single Patriot came to mind when trying to name the 10 best players at these critical front-seven positions. (The cornerback results will be released on Friday, and it feels safe to assume there won't be many -- if any -- Patriots on that list, now that J.C. Jackson has moved on.)
Obviously, offseason polling doesn't win games in the fall. Still, it's a bit jarring to see the Patriots as an afterthought in such important defensive areas, with no real solutions in the short-term future.
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