Pats' D missing two key elements
The Patriots will enter the regular season with some serious concerns on defense, writes Jeffri Chadiha in his latest Three and Out column.
There is one good reason I don't jump on a team's bandwagon because of how it looks on paper: Circumstances can change quickly in the NFL.
I raise this point today because of what's been happening with the New England Patriots. They've lost Pro Bowl defensive end Richard Seymour for at least six games to injury (he's on the physically unable to perform list). They've lost strong safety Rodney Harrison to a four-game suspension (for using human growth hormone). And thanks to Randy Moss' hamstring injury, they also spent the last four weeks practicing without the wide receiver before he finally returned to the field Monday.
Those absences simply don't bode well for a run defense that will have to deal with some talented runners -- including San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson, Cincinnati's Rudi Johnson and the New York Jets' combination of Thomas Jones and Leon Washington -- in the first month of the season.
Now let me be clear about one thing: I'm not saying the Patriots are doomed. They'll still win the AFC East because they have easily the best team in that division. However, it does mean that they'll have to prove their worth, just like every other team with a decent shot at winning a championship. Their overall dominance (three Super Bowl victories in the last six years) doesn't change the fact that they could end up as humbled as last year's Super Bowl favorite, the Carolina Panthers.
By the way, all this talk about late preseason news got me thinking about how some defenses around the league will be affected by recent events. Here's what I came up with in this week's edition of Three and Out:
The only thing surprising about Strahan's decision is that he waited this long to come back to work. I figured he'd skip training camp in Albany, N.Y. and then give himself a little more time to get into playing shape.
But 15 years in the NFL probably have helped him understand what it takes to prepare for the regular season. So I give Strahan three games before he's playing at a high level again. Even if it takes that long, the Giants will be happy to have their best pass-rusher back on a defense that needs to keep the pressure off a mediocre secondary.
Is it just me or does anybody else think the Denver Broncos are going to struggle with all the changes going on in that organization? The recent signing of defensive end Simeon Rice means Denver will be hoping a 33-year old veteran with a bum shoulder and 121 career sacks can be a difference-maker on a line that hasn't had a consistent pass-rusher in three seasons.
But when I look at the entire defense, I also see a unit with two new tackles (Sam Adams and Amon Gordon), two new starters at linebacker (D.J. Williams moves to the middle while Nate Webster takes Williams' old spot on the strong side) and a new starting cornerback (Dre' Bly replaces the late Darrent Williams). Throw in new defensive coordinator Jim Bates and I just don't see a smooth road for this bunch.
Second-year quarterback Jay Cutler might be attracting all the hype on an offense that has undergone its own personnel changes, but all this transition on defense isn't going to be a good thing in Denver.
That's the report we've been hearing and this is vital news to the Dolphins. Porter won't be as dominant as he was during his Pro Bowl days in Pittsburgh -- after all, he's now needed arthroscopic knee surgery in each of the last three offseasons -- but Miami desperately needs him to inject his much-publicized edge into that defense.
Porter didn't like the fact that the Steelers released him and he loved how quickly the Dolphins moved on him once he became a free agent. My suspicion is that his pride will get him off to a strong start after he missed most of training camp with his knee problem.
Jeffri Chadiha is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
MORE NFL HEADLINES
- Report: Hernandez questioned on homicide
- Pats' Gronkowski undergoes back surgery
- Gleason accepts fired radio DJs' apologies
- Johnson: 'I've learned my lesson' from jail