Originally written on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 12/28/12

NEW ORLEANS - NOVEMBER 30: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots warms ups against the New Orleans Saints at Louisana Superdome on November 30, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
It’s been the Tom Brady show since 2007, but before that, the defense was a thing of beauty in New England. The likes of Richard Seymour, Asante Samuel, Mike Vrabel and Ted Bruschi carved out the Patriot Way; they played it hard, but worked it harder. This is the defense Bill Belichick wants, he’s just waiting for them to grow up. Belichick has his pass rusher in Chandler Jones, a versatile linebacker in Dont’a Hightower, and young tough corner in Alfonzo Dennard.  All three are rookies, who will be the make or break players in the postseason, and each have a bookend veteran that will force the action their way. Vince Wilfork is the key for Chandler Jones, he draws the double teams, and although he’s listed at nose tackle, he is rarely over the center. Wilfork can slide to a 4-3 tackle giving Jones the one on one with an offensive tackle, that’s the matchup on the line. Jerod Mayo is the bookend to Hightower, they have skill sets so close that the question here is how fast can Hightower grasp playoff pro football? Where Jones gets by on athletic ability, Hightower is more of a mental player, which could be a double edged sword sometimes. Hightower played more like a seasoned veteran than a rookie, but he hasn’t seen everything yet and that is where he’ll need Mayo, to keep his mental in check. Aqib Talib was brought in to replace Ras-I Dowling and the new Belichick concept of big corners. One only has to look at the Seattle Seahawks with Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman as examples. Talib takes away chunks of space and can play a true man to man concept. Dennard will be the corner the other team targets, and he seems to be up for the challenge. He reminds us of a young Ty Law, short and stocky; a physical who reacts as good to the ball in the air that we haven't seen in a Patriots uniform since Law. Dennard is tough against the run and there isn’t another corner on the Patriots close to fitting what the Patriots need outside, which is someone who will fight (sorry Kyle Arrington). Those are the three rookies who have played big roles, and once the playoffs start; they'll have to step up their game even more. var switchTo5x=true; stLight.options({publisher:''});
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