Last month, we asked you which member of the Patriots offense faces the most pressure to perform heading into the 2013 season. Overwhelmingly, you the fans voted for quarterback Tom Brady.
Today, just one week before the first Patriots training camp practice of the summer, we're flipping the same question over to the defensive side of the ball. Given all the upheaval on offense, perhaps New England's defense as a whole will be counted on more to step up this year.
Which individual on the Patriots defense is under the most pressure this season?
Read the arguments from the Patriots Football Weekly writers, then cast your vote in our Samsonite Make Your Case poll.
PFW's Erik Scalavino says ...
When the Patriots traded for Talib midway through last season, he had an immediate impact, returning an interception for a touchdown in his very first game in silver and blue. His ability to come right in and start allowed New England's defense, many observers believed, to be more "aggressive." The truth is, Talib's addition was a welcome one, but he did very little to change the overall dynamic or performance of the unit.
Of course, it may have been a bit unfair to expect so much so soon for one player. But now, after re-signing with the club and having taken part in a full offseason strength and conditioning program, Talib will be counted on even more to be the lockdown corner that many expect him to be. This will be even more necessary if the Patriots find themselves without their other starting corner, Alfonzo Dennard, for any length of time in light of his most recent brush with the law.
New England's secondary has been its Achilles heal for several seasons now, and Talib represents the most talented player the Patriots have had at corner since Asante Samuel. For the defensive backfield to have any hope of being a truly aggressive presence on the field this season, Talib must assert himself.
PFW's Andy Hart says ...
Most reasonable people understand that the Patriots offense is clearly going to take a step back in 2013. Therefore, the defense needs to take a step forward. The biggest concern on the defense for years now has been the bottom-feeding pass defense. Coming off a solid rookie season Jones has the talent and potential to alter the image of that pass defense almost by himself.
The 2012 No. 1 pick is heading into the all important second season, on the cusp of the much talked about Year Two Jump. We've seen guys like J.J. Watt and Jason Pierre Paul catapult from pedestrian rookie impacts to second seasons that included trips to the Pro Bowl and Defensive Player of the Year consideration. Watt was the most dominant player in the game as a sophomore last fall, following up a rookie season that was very similar to the one Jones just put up. Not to be too overdramatic, but heading into his second training camp Jones carries the weight of the defense – maybe even the weight of the team – on his bulked up broad shoulders.
The pressure is on Jones to create the kind of impact pressure on opposing passers that can transform a defense from weakness to a strength overnight. Good luck, Chandler.
Now it's the fans turn to cast their vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question.