Patriots: One big question

How much has New England's defense improved?

It can't get much worse. The New England Patriots were 31st in total defense and 31st against the pass in 2011.

New England selected all defensive players until the seventh round of last week's NFL draft. It was a wise move to draft for defense, particularly in the first round, where the Patriots selected pass-rusher Chandler Jones and physical linebacker Dont'a Hightower.

Not everyone agrees with all of New England's selections. Second-round defensive back Tavon Wilson was a controversial pick. Wilson was not invited to the combine and certainly wasn't projected as a second-round pick. But you can't disagree with the Patriots adding six new defensive players to the roster.

The Patriots appear to be focused on their pass rush. Jones, Hightower and third-round defensive end Jake Bequette displayed the ability and athleticism to pressure the quarterback in college. Improvement in that area this season would be huge for the Patriots.

New England's offense already is elite. Quarterback Tom Brady and the offense carried a struggling defense all season during their Super Bowl run. The defense doesn't need to be top 10 in 2012. But if it can make immediate strides and get into the top 15 or top 20, that could be enough to make New England a strong title contender once again.