Though the Patriots' offense continues to receive much of the public’s attention, it should not go unnoticed that the defense has more than held its own during the early part of the 2012 preseason.
New additions in Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower and Steve Gregory look ready to play starting roles this season, and the return of a number of other starters gives the Patriots continuity on defense heading into the regular season.
As a captain and veteran presence along the interior line, Vince Wilfork will once again be counted on to anchor the middle of the Patriots' defense, and although it’s early, he believes his unit is coming together entering Friday night’s game against Tampa Bay.
“We have to. We're going into the third game now and everything has to be gelling,” he said. “This third game, I think everyone treats as a regular-season game and you approach your preparation and everything like that. We’re going to have a lot of quality reps out there and see what we can put together as a team. We definitely need it.”
Wilfork said he also believes the pair of joint practices the team held with the Buccaneers will benefit his team both now and down the line.
“I think coming down here and practicing in the weather and against a pretty physical football team is going to better us down the road. I think we got a lot of stuff done that we wanted to get done,” he continued. “It wasn't perfect, but I think we got some good work in and going into the game, I feel very confident and the team feels very confident going in. And that’s all we look for. Health is everything and going in and being able to practice at a high level and then play at a high level and come out healthy, that’s our goal.”
One key area to the Patriots' defensive success is the pass rush, which Wilfork expressed optimism about.
“I’m happy with where we're at, but we can get better. We definitely can get better,” Wilfork said. “That’s what we strive for every week: to get better. But it's starting to come together, guys are starting to understand how we need to rush. Now that we're way deep into camp, we should have a good, good idea of what we have, the moves that we like, some things we don't like, what we need to work on and what we're pretty good at. So we should have a good sense of where we're at with that, but I’m pretty happy with where we're at.”