How Patriots’ Pass Defense Can Build Off Last Season’s Success

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FOXBORO, Mass. — It’s safe to say the days of uncertainty plaguing the New England Patriots’ secondary are over.

Continuity has been key in the Patriots’ secondary since 2014. Players like Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Logan Ryan and Kyle Arrington have come and gone, but enough of the core group has stayed in place that the Patriots aren’t required to start over every season.

Five Patriots defensive backs remain from their 2014 Super Bowl XLIX team, and 10 players return from last year’s Super Bowl XLI team. It’s more probable than not that high-profile free agent signing Stephon Gilmore will be the only new defensive back on the 53-man roster this season.

“It’s something we enjoy and we like, rather than trying to restart, which we’ve done before,” safety Devin McCourty, who was drafted in 2010, said Wednesday. “I think coming in with some type of background and some foundation always helps. We kind of put the pressure on ourselves to kind of pick up where we left off and not have to start back with making a lot of mistakes on Day 1, even though we start kind of vanilla.

“We want to come out and do even more than that. We put the pressure on this group, and we’ve kind of gone out and performed well. But it’s something we’ve got to keep working at. It’s only June.”

It seems getting Gilmore acclimated hasn’t been an issue so far.

“He’s been working hard, man,” McCourty said. “He’s a smart guy. Obviously you know he’s a good player from his time in Buffalo, so as a group, it’s been fun out there meshing and getting to know each other. We got a lot of our defense in right now, so we’re working through that. And this time of year is key. We start to work on communication, getting to know what guys like, what they don’t like and getting him in here with a group that’s kind of played together’s been good. I think he’s fit in very well. It comes down for all of us to just coming in and putting in the work each day. He’s done that.”

And there has been no beef between Gilmore and Malcolm Butler about who will be crowned the No. 1 cornerback on the team.

“I think the beauty of playing in the secondary is that stuff doesn’t matter, because it’s all about how we play as a unit,” McCourty said. “To me, that’s been the cool thing. Guys talking more, guys laughing and joking, Steph fitting into the group like he’s been here for years. To me, that’s the key, and that’s what I’ve seen so far.”

The Patriots’ pass defense ranked 12th in yards allowed, eighth in passer rating allowed, ninth in touchdowns allowed and 11th in completion percentage allowed last season. If the Patriots can continue to build off that, they can only improve with the addition of Gilmore.

Thumbnail photo via Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports Images

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