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NFL Live analysts talk Pats defense

Wes Welker’s presence on the practice field for the start of Wednesday’s organized team activity was the lead story on ESPN’s “NFL Live” program today.

Analyst Tedy Bruschi talked about the “statement” that Welker was making, before fellow analyst Mike Golic chimed in, expanding the discussion to other Patriots-related questions.

“Seriously, are we shocked that he’s back? This guy is as tough as can be. It doesn’t shock me a bit, and it’s great for this team,” Golic said. “My concern [for the team] is the other side of the ball, and a big reason for that is guys like you and [Mike] Vrabel, [Rodney] Harrison and [Richard] Seymour are all gone. That defense has lost their big-play ability. They had just 31 sacks last year, and in their last 32 games they’ve given up 52 touchdown passes – and only 14 touchdown runs in that same time span. So this is a team giving up big plays and not making them.

“Jerod Mayo, the linebacker, I love this kid. He’s going to be the leader of that defense, but the defense as a whole has to start making bigger plays. That’s something they miss without all of you guys there. They transitioned last year into a new group and they did OK at times, but they didn’t come up with enough big plays to help out the offense.”

Bruschi then shared his thoughts on the defense.

“I think they’re still trying to find their identity,” he said. “Every time we talk about the New England Patriots defense, we’re talking about guys who were there. Well, the guys who are there now have to form their own winning identity. If you think about that entire defensive roster, there aren’t many Super Bowl champions there. But when we think about the New England Patriots, we equate them with world champions.”

The lone players on defense who were part of the Patriots’ Super Bowl championship teams are defensive linemen Ty Warren (2003, 2004), Tully Banta-Cain (2003, 2004) and Vince Wilfork (2004). Linebacker Eric Alexander, whose primary contributions come on special teams, played three games in 2004 and he also remains on the roster.