Can Patriots' top-ranked defense be even better in 2020?

Andy Hart
May 20, 2020 - 11:34 am

The Patriots got off to an 8-0 start last season and cruised to yet aother division title on the back of the NFL’s No. 1 defense.

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Regardless of whether the production was frontloaded against suspect competition, New England finished the year with the best defensive unit in the NFL based on yards allowed, points allowed and third down efficiency.

Heading into a new season -- a 2020 campaign that obviously won’t include a Tom Brady-led offense and saw the defense lose key veteran contributors such as linebackers Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts as well as defensive tackle Danny Shelton and safety Duron Harmon – there is a drive within the New England defense to be even more efficient and effective this coming fall.

According to veteran cornerback Jonathan Jones, Patriots defenders are focused on getting better as individuals to advance the unit as a whole.

I think, individually, it just starts with improvement,” Jones said this week on a WebEx call with local media. “I think every guy kind of goes back to some of his plays that he didn’t make or that he was close to making the year before and just finding a way, whether it’s mentally or physically, to get closer to making those plays. As far as it goes as a unit, communicate everything. Communication, every aspect – nothing in life is 100 percent, but that’s always our goal is to be 100 percent. So, just finding those areas that we have had in the past and trying to fix those. Like I said, we have a lot of veteran leadership and a lot of guys that are up to the task of just continuing to strive for perfection.”

While there is a bit more turnover on the front seven, Jones feels confident that the continuity in the secondary should help the group remain the foundation upon which the New England defense is built moving forward, including reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year cornerback Stephon Gilmore.

I think that will be extremely advantageous for us, if we use it to that advantage – to continue to get on our communications, to stay on the same page. I know we use the word communication over and over, because in football that’s so key to make sure you get 11 guys to see the same picture at the same time,” Jones said. “So, in the back end, just having those guys who have seen the same thing over and over, and there’s subtle communication between each other that we’ve grown an understanding. So, just getting back to that once we get on the field, I think we’ll be a step ahead. But, like I said, we have to continue with that with these (virtual team) meetings to just kind of refresh that.”

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