Is Aqib Talib the key to the Patriots defense?

Is Aqib Talib the key to the Patriots defense?
September 6, 2013, 11:15 pm
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If you could name the one player who represents the largest key to the Patriots defense's success, who would it be?

Your answer is likely Aqib Talib, the Tampa Bay castoff who rejuvenated a previously lifeless (almost nonexistent) secondary in the second half of the 2012 regular season.

The Sports Hub's Mike Flynn doesn't necessarily disagree. After all, the numbers, via Pro Football Reference, do not lie. They are staggering to say the least.

Yet, while Flynn felt Talib performed admirably in his time with the Patriots, the cornerback's mere presence figured into the equation as well.

"He was good, he wasn't great, it wasn't only him, trading for him was a domino effect. You've got McCourty at safety, where he felt comfortable, Dennard came in and exceeded expectations," Flynn said. "I think the addition of him, and the numbers show, since he was here the defense played a lot better."

That's not all though. In life before Talib, the Patriots were known as a pass defense quarterbacks could push around and manipulate without so much as an ounce of resistance.

But the addition of an enforcer like Talib quickly curtailed that belief.

"With Talib you have, and this team has lacked it and you kind of saw it in the AFC Championship Game with Anquan Boldin, a real physical type of corner. Dennard's really not that guy, Arrington, McCourty weren't as physical, Talib is and when he came here he brought a style and aggressive to the secondary. It kind of carried onto the rest of the team."

Talib, for however much he did, is not the undisputed clear choice here.

In a year that saw two defensive linemen, Von Miller and J.J. Watt, put up historically great seasons, another displayed flashes in New England.

Chandler Jones, a rookie defensive end in 2012, recorded six sacks in his opening NFL campaign and likely would have accrued a double digit total if injuries had not beset him down the stretch run.

Year two is upon the Syracuse product and his game remains strong. How big could he be for the Patriots?

A potential defensive force, says Flynn.

"He can be there most dynamic player, 12-sack guy, game-changing type of guy," Flynn said. "He was well on his way his rookie year, had the high ankle sprain that kind of got him off kilter a little bit, but he's going to be a great player."