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Patriots restocking at linebacker showing positive signs

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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

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24 Responses to “Patriots restocking at linebacker showing positive signs”
  1. jnbnet says: Jun 18, 2012 11:01 AM

    The Patriots should be as good or better than last year on offense. Their D will surely be better…and the youth movement should allow them to hang in there at the end of a game.

  2. lgw91s says: Jun 18, 2012 11:04 AM

    Hightower, Spikes, and Mayo – should definitely be seeing a few more blitz packages from this trio of thumpers. Jones and Bequette will be purely edge rushers this year.

  3. tombradyallday says: Jun 18, 2012 11:06 AM

    glad to see belichick get better on defense and not focus on offense, offense will always be there

  4. kissbillsrings says: Jun 18, 2012 11:15 AM

    Lots of potential for sure….can’t wait to see these guys starting to gel around week 6 on….

  5. nflofficeadmin says: Jun 18, 2012 11:18 AM

    Why anyone cares what Matt Millen thinks after thoroughly proving he has bad judgment is beyond me.

  6. mattwalshvideo says: Jun 18, 2012 11:32 AM

    A defensive chess master? With the last ranked defense this is quite comical.

    Let’s just call a spade a spade, without cheating and Tom Brady, Bill Belicheat is coaching high school football.

  7. pftwstbshmc says: Jun 18, 2012 11:32 AM

    Okay, let’s try this again…. I don’t know why the police on this site didn’t allow this the first time, but here I go with what I wrote before:

    To all the haters and fans of other teams -

    Be afraid, be very afraid…..

    And to those policing this site: Stop being buttholes and deleting peoples comments for no reason. If there is a problem with what someone writes, grow a pair and let them know why.

  8. redrew says: Jun 18, 2012 11:33 AM

    The Pats couldn’t dominate on defense because Belichick was more interested in limiting points than preventing points. He presented a risk free defense with a keep the play in front of you mentality that forced offenses to execute 5 yard plays. Belichick counted on offenses to make mistakes as they marched 80 yards on 12-15 plays. Unfortunately, the rules have given offenses a decided edge these days and humorless Bill failed to adapt. Manning used to rip this “safe” defense to shreds….as did other premium passing teams. So now Belickick has spent 2 #1s and a #2 on LB. In other words, the great defensive mind has admitted that his bend don’t break defense was broke. The NFL should be scared now….a great Patriot offense combined with a more talented interior D…….14-2 at the worst.

  9. CKL says: Jun 18, 2012 11:34 AM

    AND…Pepper Johnson is back coaching LBs…that’s huge. He gets the best out of every position group he coaches. He’s been with BB most of his career as a player or a coach. Heck longer than BB’s kids are old.

  10. nzyme says: Jun 18, 2012 11:40 AM

    Always heard about ‘The System” when you spoke of that Patriot defenses that won it 3 times. Now that we look back on it. Maybe those players were pretty damn good too!

  11. deepthreat says: Jun 18, 2012 11:46 AM

    That’s a lot of unknowns being counted on to restock a lousy defense. Chandler Jones had 10 career sacks at Syracuse.

    PS: Glad to hear it isn’t only me:

    pftwstbshmc says:Jun 18, 2012 11:32 AM
    And to those policing this site: Stop being buttholes and deleting peoples comments for no reason. If there is a problem with what someone writes, grow a pair and let them know why.

  12. realdealsteel says: Jun 18, 2012 11:50 AM

    Sorry AFC but the Patriots and the Steelers will be playing for the AFC Championship when it is all said and done.

    Everybody else in the AFC is just pissing in the wind and the breeze is blowing back in their face.
    :)

  13. lolb23 says: Jun 18, 2012 12:00 PM

    I’ve always been fascinated with the Patriots style of defense, most notably their LB corps. it seems like they always get the LB I like most in each draft…Mayo, Spikes and now Hightower. I can honestly I say I badly wanted my team to draft each of those guys. I think every fan did, even if they can’t admit it.

  14. lolb23 says: Jun 18, 2012 12:03 PM

    Sorry AFC but the Patriots and the Steelers will be playing for the AFC Championship when it is all said and done.
    __________________________________

    Steeler fans are the new/old Red Wings fans. Every year they tell everyone all about how great they are, no matter how bad they lost the year before (Tebow). Every year, the Steelers are the best team in the league no matter who won the SB, right? Red Wing fans used to all act like that. Now look at them. Get used to losing, Steeler fan. Window is closed.

  15. tedmurph says: Jun 18, 2012 12:08 PM

    @realdealsteel:

    You’re only half right, steelers will be lucky to make the playoffs. They’ll be fighting Denver, KC, Cincy, balti, maybe jets or Buff for the scraps. Houston’s the threat.

  16. buzzbutt says: Jun 18, 2012 12:11 PM

    Can’t wait for Peyton and the Broncos to come in and test out the new defense – should be fun.

  17. ytsejamer1 says: Jun 18, 2012 12:57 PM

    I’ve always thought BB and his successes all had one thing in common…a strong and varied LB corp. He had it at the Giants and again with the Pats earlier on in the 2000s.

    This group is starting to only resemble some solid players at this position. We’ll have to see how they do on the field, but the position seems to be going in the right direction.

    I love Spikes’ energy in the middle…He can fill the thumper role that Ted Johnson did very very well. Mayo is in the Bruschi mold…inside guy that can get to where he needs to be quickly. I haven’t seen him make a lot of game changing plays in his career (he should considering how highly people value him), but he started rolling a bit more last year with big plays. Hope he keeps that up.

    BB still hasn’t replaced Willie McGinest for that outside rusher. The late 2000s had turds like Monty Beisel, an aged Chad Brown, and a bunch of special team players forced into that role. Adalius Thomas was a beast his first year, but really fell off the face of the Earth. There’s been too many of those guys along with failed draft picks (Jermaine Cunningham, Tyrone McKenzie, etc) which have led to the decline of the quality of BB defenses.

  18. Drummond says: Jun 18, 2012 1:31 PM

    A defensive chess master? With the last ranked defense this is quite comical.

    Let’s just call a spade a spade, without cheating and Tom Brady, Bill Belicheat is coaching high school football.

    __________________

    Okay..

    Let’s call a spade a spade and a fact a fact,

    The Patriots defense was last in….

    -nothing.

    This defense tied for 2nd in having the most interceptions and 3rd for highest, positive turnover ratio.

    They were 14th in sacks …

    … and how did the Patriots fair in the most important defensive statistic of them all?

    They were 15th in Points Allowed.

    Belichick is considered a defensive chess master as much for his ability to coach and plug in a vast array of diverse players as much as how his defense changes to best match the talent he has at his disposal.

    Not that many coaches could do as much with so little.

  19. tomeffnbrady says: Jun 18, 2012 2:13 PM

    theres also this guy named Rob Ninkovich, not a big name but the guy is a stud. Our LB core has the possiblity of being top 5 in the league…. ok, it might take a few years to get there but still.

  20. 6ball says: Jun 18, 2012 2:18 PM

    .

    @videohead

    Spot on about the Patriots losing the “yardage bowl” on a weekly basis . Luckily , nfl games are decided on points scored vs. that weeks opponent and not on garbage time stats .

    The Patriots and Packers were #31 and #32 in total defense , yet combined to go 29-3 in the regular season .

    Analyze that .

    .

  21. patsfiend says: Jun 18, 2012 4:32 PM

    As 6ball points out, the defense was not nearly as bad as the “defensive ranking” which is based on yardage lends you to believe. They were actually pretty good in the playoffs, too (it was the offense that failed us, in the end.)

    Let’s not get too excited yet, though. I want to see it on the field, over the course of the season. Last year we were all talking ourselves into the size and speed of Ras-I Dowling locking down a cornerback spot.

  22. jolink653 says: Jun 18, 2012 7:18 PM

    don’t bother responding to that guy he’s just trolling to make himself feel better about how much worse his team is…if the secondary can stay healthy (and that means ras-i dowling especially) then the coverage should be pretty good…hopefully gregory can lock down the other safety spot with help from sergio brown and i’d actually like to see ihedigbo back too to help out on special teams and at safety…and i loved the jones/hightower/bequette picks because that will add so much in the qb pressure department and it will be even better if/when andre carter gets resigned…an increase in qb pressure from the LB core will cover up any deficiencies in the secondary and the reason they gave up so much last year is because they could never get to the qb with 3 or 4 down lineman depending on what formation they were in…BB refused to blitz more and the secondary got killed so i’m looking for a lot of blitzing and speed rush off the edges to force the qb into bad throws

  23. backindasaddle says: Jun 18, 2012 8:55 PM

    If Matt Millen is high on them then that virtually assures that they will suck.

  24. scalfor3 says: Jun 19, 2012 11:20 AM

    lots a potential…they have to put it together and do it this year. the window isn’t as wide open as it used to be.

    pass rush should be improved with the additions of faneane, scott etc…that can only help everyone. hope we can get andre carter to come back

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