When the Patriots defense was something other than a liability, Bill Belichick could count on a smart, capable group of linebackers which included Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest, Mike Vrabel and Ted Johnson.
While the current group may never match that level, there are signs the Patriots are on the way back toward establishing that position as a good one.
Jerod Mayo is an established star. Brandon Spikes is good against the run and plays with an edge. Adding first-round Alabama playmaker Dont’a Hightower to that mix, along with pass-rushers Chandler Jones and Jake Bequette, and the Patriots have enough good young parts to build upon.
“Spikes had to find himself at the end of the year, and he did so favorably. And I think in the run game, that’s good,” NFL Network analyst Matt Millen told Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald. “I think Spikes is a tough kid. He’s got a physical presence to him. Mayo is a guy who can be more well-rounded. So the pieces are there. You just have to fit them into the puzzle, and I think that’s what Bill does well.”
Millen might have been a joke as a GM, but he does know something about linebackers. And Belichick’s reputation as a chess master on defense is well-earned.
Whether he can turn this bunch into anything resembling his past stars remains to be seen, but the Patriots have at least addre