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Samsonite Make Your Case: On the defensive

Through three weeks the Patriots defense has struggled in every department. Is this the worst unit we've seen since Bill Belichick arrived in 2000?


The Patriots made some changes on defense - both in personnel and in philosophy - but so far the results have been lacking. Through three games the unit ranked dead last in yards allowed and had surrendered 79 points.

Given the amount of attention Bill Belichick paid to improve things on that side of the ball, the early performance was stunning ... and it got us thinking (which is always dangerous). This week's Samsonite Make Your Case involves the defense's slow start.

Is this the worst defense of the Bill Belichick era?

Andy Hart says yes ...

I'll admit I'm as reactionary as the next guy, but I've been that way my entire career. I can't ever remember feeling this bad about a Patriots defense after any three-game stretch during the 11-plus years of the Belichick era. Obviously the team is terrible against the pass right now. Failing to cover and rush the passer is a deadly mix. But I don't feel like the team is a proven brick wall against the run, either. From left to right and front to back I have concerns about the entire unit.

Over the years there always seemed to be one or two guys/positions you could point to as the reason for defensive failures. Duane Starks, Deltha O'Neal, Monty Beisel, Chad Brown, Steve Martin and Derrick Burgess have all spent time as scapegoat whipping boys. This year I have concerns about just about every aspect and player. Even the team's three Pro Bowl defensive captains haven't lived up to their resumes, especially second-year cornerback Devin McCourty. And it's not like the action has come against three elite quarterbacks or offenses with unlimited weapons. Three different teams, same dismal results on defense.

Call me Chicken Little if you want, but I think this is the worst defense I've ever seen the Patriots play under Belichick's watch. I said it immediately after last Sunday's loss in Buffalo and feel the same today. Hearing that former Patriot linebacker Tedy Bruschi feels basically the same way only makes me even more confident in my own observations.

Paul Perillo says no ...

First of all, it's only been three games. To definitively call something the best or worst after such a short sample is premature. The Patriots are mixing in a number of new players and they're working to get more comfortable with one another. So far the results haven't been very good.

But to say this is the worst of the Belichick era ... not so fast. The 2002 club was wretched on defense. It couldn't stop anyone from the running the ball from start to finish. Remember when Kansas City rallied from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit almost exclusively on the ground? Backs routinely topped the 150-yard mark and racked up the points. Anytime you can't stop the run your defense is pretty bad.

Just thinking about of some of the players on that defense like Steve Martin, Rick Lyle, Victor Green, Leonard Myers, Terrell Buckley and Tebucky Jones - all of whom spent time in the starting lineup - makes me think this group is better. At least from a personnel standpoint, the current crop has more to offer.

The difference to me is talent. I have to believe Devin McCourty is a better player than he's shown thus far. Same with Shaun Ellis, Andre Carter and Leigh Bodden. This group will improve while that 2002 club never did.

Now it's the fans turn to cast their vote.* *Is this the worst defense of the Bill Belichick era?

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