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New England Patriots: Have They Improved on Defense?

The New England Patriots struggled on defense for stretches of the 2017 regular season and again in Super Bowl LII. During the regular season, New England ranked 29th in total defense, allowing an average of 366.0 yards per game.

Heading into OTAs, defense is thus the Patriots’ biggest question.

While the Patriots parted with offensive pieces like Dion Lewis, Nate Solder, Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks this offseason, that side of the ball should be OK so long as Tom Brady is healthy and playing at his usual level. Things are less certain on defense, as the Pats lost starting corner Malcolm Butler to the Tennessee Titans.

New England spent a second-round pick on cornerback Duke Dawson and added linebackers Ja’Whaun Bentley and Christian Sam on Day 3. It also traded for cornerback Jason McCourty, added pass-rusher Adrian Clayborne and should have 2017 draft pick Derek Rivers back from injury.

To get back to the Super Bowl and have a shot at winning it, the Patriots need their new-look defense to be better than last year’s group. They’ll begin forging that unit in OTAs.

The New Orleans Saints have one of the most complete rosters in the NFL.

They have a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees and a rushing attack that ranked fifth in the NFL last season (129.4 yards per game). The Saints also have a defense that allowed only 20.4 points per game (10th in the NFL) last season and features the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year, Marshon Lattimore.

By trading up for former Texas-San Antonio edge-rusher Marcus Davenport, the Saints hope they now feature one of the league’s best pass-rushing duos, too.

New Orleans has a premier sack-artist in Cameron Jordan, who amassed 13.0 sacks in 2017. However, they didn’t have a high-end complement for him before Davenport. No one else on the defense logged more than 4.5 sacks last season.

If Davenport can rack up sacks as a rookie, the Saints should have one of the NFL’s best edge-rushing combos. That would improve their already rising defense and help prevent big plays like the one that ended New Orleans’ playoff hopes.

Is Davenport the missing piece of the Saints’ championship puzzle? New Orleans will start to find out in OTAs.