I know the offense isn't as fun to watch as it has been in the past this year I think our defense really makes this team exciting to watch. I like how they're so much more creative than they have been in the past few years. Looking back on the '10-'12 defenses they just seem so vanilla compared to what they're doing this year. And that's a product of the talent level being that much higher.
Talib, Dennard and Arrington is a pretty awesome top CB trio. Talib is getting all the attention but Dennard is emerging as a top notch #2 CB this year IMO. He's taken a huge step forward in year 2. We've gone over here before how good Arrington is in the slot (and he's even looked better to me in the situations where he ends up outside, usually because Talib is shadowing someone in the slot).
At safety, Gregory has looked very solid now that he's surrounded by more talent and being asked to do less. McCourty isn't making as many flashy plays as I thought he would but he's been playing very well within the system IMO. I was expecting him to be one of the playmakers this year but it looks like they've used him more as the safety net so they can be more aggressive near the LOS. Everyone always talks about Jones and of course Talib when they look for what's changed with the D but I think McCourty shifting to S has made close to as much a difference. He's smart enough to run all the different coverages BB wants to and his CB coverage skills
Mayo, Spikes and Hightower may not be the best in pass coverage but they're not awful either. And they do a great job vs. the run. Spikes may have a huge weakness in coverage but he's been able to largely cover up for the loss of an all pro NT against the run as a LB. That's pretty impressive. In an ideal world you have better DTs so you don't need that but that isn't our reality this year. Long term the fit most likely isn't there but having him is one of the major reasons we have a top D after Wilfork went down so thank God we have him this year!
Jones I still don't think has maxed out but he's definitely improved over last year (even the impressive start he had). He's not one of the elite DEs yet but I expect him to be eventually. Ninkovich on the other side is one of those assignment guys that opens things up for others. One play that stood out to me was in BUF opening day. After starting an upfield pass rush he was covering a back sneaking out of the backfield on a block-n-go and he started running on a backwards angle to get the angle to catch him after a dump off pass. It ended up saving the play for us. It was just a great awareness play. Teams have kind of gotten more creative with counters and Ninkovich is great at defending that stuff.
At DT we're pretty weak, no way around it. We're picking them up in other areas though. Our DEs play the run well and I talked about Spikes' presence. The CBs and McCourty have been so good that we've actually been able to run a good amount of 3 CB, 1 S so we sort of get a nickel package but still can keep extra run stuffers in to help. The CBs also do a pretty good job in run support. Jones kicking inside in the nickel package is helping to provide some of the up the middle pass rush. Hopefully Kelly comes back to take it to another level.
We have so many threads complaining about the offense so I just wanted to make one where we could talk about how we finally have a good defense again.