FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The New England Patriots' defense was one of the main reasons for the team's success in the 2018 season. It kept the high-flying Los Angeles Rams offense to just a field goal in Super Bowl LIII. They had many big plays throughout the regular and postseason, which had them atop the NFL in several categories and helped an offense that had a shift in ideology because of a weaker receiving corps and a seemingly less-explosive Rob Gronkowski.
It's tough to say how good this year's defense is going to be. With some key offseason acquisitions and a strong draft class, on paper, it looks like an improved unit. Despite only seeing them play through three days of training camp, Bill Belichick seems to have already labeled this year's unit as better than his 2018 unit.
Belichick was interviewed by former Patriot Willie McGinest on Saturday. What's important about the interview isn't what the head coach said, but rather how McGinest asked him about this year's defense.
"And you told me earlier that you are excited about the defense," McGinest said on Saturday's edition of NFL Network's "Training Camp Live". "You've got smart guys, you think this defense is actually better than it was last year and they've taken the next step. Is the defense now probably the dominant side? I know how you balance out offense and defense, but do you have more confidence in this defense because of the leadership and because of the guys you have over there now versus the past year?"
It seems that during a private conversation with McGinest that Belichick has already labeled his 2019 defense as better than the 2018 defense.
This offseason, New England signed veteran defensive end Michael Bennett, who is supposed to replace Trey Flowers, who walked in free agency. They signed Jamie Collins who should be reinserted into the defense after a short stint with the Browns. The addition of defensive tackle Mike Pennel will quietly bolster the interior defensive line to make it better than it was in 2018. They also drafted CB Joejuan Williams and DE Chase Winovich, who should both play a key role within the defense and add some much-needed depth to both positions.
The insertion and development of these aforementioned players will surely take time over the course of the summer. But that didn't affect Belichick's decision to let his former player know how he feels about this year's defense before they've played a single game.