Back in the spring, with a litany of departures on that side of the ball, there were many questions about the entirety of the New England defense.
The two primary ponderings were whether the front seven would be good enough to support a young secondary and, whether that young secondary would be good enough to compete.
Now, with the year winding down, New England's defense has put together a surprisingly good season led by a front seven with 47 sacks and a defensive backfield that's gotten the job done all fall.
So, when the Pro Bowl rosters were announced Tuesday night it's both surprising and not surprising that New England's seven players selected to the Hawaii all-star game included first-time selections for defensive end Chandler Jones, linebacker Jamie Collins and cornerback Malcolm Butler.
The Boston Globe notes the factor winning plays in Pro Bowl selections, with the Panthers getting 10 guys on the team. Barely a week into his New England career, wide receiver Leonard Hankerson admits he's still trying to learn his way around the Patriots offense. The Globe says that this time around Bill Belichick expects an even tougher Jets team fighting for its playoff life, which includes physical running back Chris Ivory trying to take it to the New England front.
The Boston Herald says that while Darrelle Revis is gone from New England, Butler and Logan Ryan have had the cornerback position well covered this fall. The Herald says newly-signed running back Steven Jackson appeared to be in great shape when he took to the practice field Tuesday in Foxborough in his customary No. 39 jersey. The Herald looks at the strength of the New England defense, a "magnificent seven" up front. The paper also notes that Hankerson is cramming to learn the offense.
The Providence Journal says that playing without captain Devin McCourty on Sunday the rest of the Patriots safeties got mixed reviews for their performance against the Titans. The ProJo declares that Butler earning a Pro Bowl nod continues the cornerback's remarkable story.
ESPNBoston.com says that the recent struggles in the kicking game are one of the things the Patriots must clean up over the next couple weeks. Even before the young player got a Pro Bowl invite, Jets coach Todd Bowles said that Butler was one of the best in the game. ESPNBoston.com has the story of how Jackson got his No. 39, which previously belonged to practice squad running back Montee Ball, who apparently had no say in the number situation. Belichick has plenty of praise for his class of rookies.
WEEI.com looks back on the departure of Revis back to the Jets and wonders of the Patriots would be any better if they'd kept the veteran cornerback at a price of $20 million. WEEI.com notes that both Danny Amendola (knee) and Patrick Chung (hip) were both at New England's Tuesday walkthrough practice despite failing to finish Sunday's game against Tennessee. The site also has a brief breakdown of the Jets heading into Sunday's AFC East battle in New York.
ESPN has Jets safety Calvin Pryor thinking that New York can both beat and dominate the Patriots this time around.