Fans have talked quite a bit recently about the Patriots’ defense and their inability to get to the quarterback, but so far through seven games they’re already looking better than they did last season.


Chandler Jones is off to a strong start so far in 2013. (USA TODAY Images)

In 2012 the Patriots finished the season in the middle of the pack in terms of sacks, finishing with 37 for the year which had them tied for 15th in the NFL.  Obviously that performance was good enough to help get them to the AFC Championship and they nearly earned a Super Bowl birth.  The good news was with the emergence of Rob Ninkovich and the early season play of Chandler Jones before injuries hampered him, there was reason to be optimistic on their improvement this season.

So far they’ve done pretty well.  They have 18 sacks thus far, which puts them, once again, in the middle of the pack in terms of how they stack up against the rest of the league.  They’re on pace for 41 if they continue playing the way they have been, and that would be a slight improvement from how they finished last year.  The interesting number, however, is the fact that this unit is doing a better job this season putting pressure and getting to opposing quarterbacks, totaling 42 QB hits through the first seven games, 14 more than they had at this point last season over this same span.

So far Jones has lead the way with thirteen quarterback hits, followed by Ninkovich (6), Tommy Kelly (6), Michael Buchanan (5), Chris Jones (4), Dont’a Hightower (2), Jerod Mayo (2), Joe Vellano (2), Vince Wilfork (1), and Jake Bequette (1).

Losing Kelly has hurt them, because he had been doing a good job giving them interior pressure, which was something that was lacking last season.  He’s missed the last couple of games with a knee injury, and there has yet to be a timetable placed on his return.

Meanwhile, as far as sacks are concerned, Chandler Jones is your leader with 6.5, and looking back at last season he had five at this point of the year so he’s already ahead of that pace.  From there it’s Chris Jones (3.5), Tommy Kelly (2.5), Jerod Mayo (1.5),  Joe Vellano (1) and Rob Ninkovich (1).  That brings the total to 18, three better than they had at this point last season.  Not great, but still an improvement.  They reportedly brought back Andre Carter on Tuesday, who finished with 10 sacks for them back in 2011.  If he can even be half the player he was back then, he’ll definitely help them from that standpoint as well.

It’s obviously a little early to look too far into it, but it’s good to see some improvement in what has been a problem area in recent years.  With nine games still to play there’s certainly a lot of football left, and hopefully the Patriots continue to build on what they’ve done so far in the coming weeks.

RYAN ALLEN ON A STAGGERING PACE THROUGH SEVEN GAMES:

Most people are aware of the Patriots third down issues but local beat writer Glen Farley pointed out an interesting fact that is worth mentioning.  As it stands right now, punter Ryan Allen has already tied a franchise record for punt yards in a game after his 11 punt, 514 yard performance back in week two.  However, Farley points out that the Patriots are currently on pace to send the 23-year old Allen out to punt 96 times this season, which would rank second in Patriots history to Shawn McCarthy’s 103 for a 1992 team that went 2-14 under Dick MacPherson.  Fortunately this team is obviously a little better than that one, but that’s still a staggering figure.

NEW YORK COMPANY SENDING JETS CONDOMS:

After Rex Ryan’s comments last week that some players felt insinuated that they abstain from sex during their week of preparation leading up to their game against the Patriots, a New York-based company, NuVo, is sending the Jets ‘a variety of condoms in different shapes and sizes,’ to help them ’reconnect with their significant others’.  Just another reason to roll your eyes at this group, and also to be frustrated that the Patriots didn’t sweep the series.

GROGAN THINKS THE RED SOX WILL WIN IT ALL

In this morning’s edition of Grogan’s Grade (now available), he said that this year’s Red Sox team reminds him of the one he played on during the ’85 season where they came together and ended up playing the Chicago Bears in the Super Bowl, and he likes their chances.

“I like the Red Sox,” said Grogan. “They’re a fun team to watch, they’re a team with a lot of chemistry, they love to play baseball. It kind of reminds me of our ’85 team that came out of nowhere, nobody expected us to win, but we had a great bunch of guys that loved to play football and we rode it all the way to the Super Bowl. I like the Red Sox to win the World Series.”

ON TO THIS MORNING’S LINKS:

BOSTON GLOBE:

Blueprint to beating the Patriots now created – Ben Volin – Volin has his weekly breakdown with some interesting analysis in this morning’s edition.

Third-quarter problems plaguing the Patriots – Michael Whitmer – Whitmer has an interesting piece on the Patriots struggles in the third quarter, which as mentioned on Monday has them being outscored 44-9 so far this season.

Patriots coaches mum on possible Andre Carter signing – Mike Whitmer – Whitmer writes that none of the coaches were willing to acknowledge the signing of Carter yesterday despite reports that he has been brought back.

BOSTON HERALD:

Vulnerable ‘D’ must close holes - Karen Guregian – Guregian has an article on the defense, who she writes since this is a ‘copycat league’, the Patriots will likely have to expect teams to continue pounding the middle of their defensive group until they figure out how to stop them.

Logan Ryan grabs attention – Karen Guregian – Guregian files her notebook this morning which leads off with a bit on the rookie, who apparently caught some attention with his ill-advised celebration that will be handled “in-house”.

ESPN BOSTON:

Catching up with former Patriots, Week 7 – Mike Reiss – Reiss looks at what’s going on with some former Patriots, and has updates on each of them from around the NFL.

What we learned from coaches’ calls - Mike Reiss – Reiss has a good synopsis on what we learned from each of the conference calls on Tuesday.

WEEI:

Bill Belichick: Jets Were ‘Using the Play’ Themselves on Field Goal Attempt – Mike Petraglia – Petraglia has comments from Belichick, who when asked if he knew about the report the Jets were tipped off about the Patriots ‘pushing’ said ‘they were using the play themselves’.

Third-quarter woes continue to dog Patriots’ offense – Christopher Price – Price has a terrific look at New England’s third quarter woes, and has some interesting numbers to back it up.

DT Sealver Siliga signs with Patriots – Christopher Price – Price has some information on the newly added defensive tackle, who Tweeted last night that he’s now a member of the Patriots.

WORCESTER TELEGRAM:

Bill Belichick sends a parting shot to Rex Ryan – Rich Garven – Garven files his notebook this morning and also mentions Belichick’s comments regarding Ryan in this piece.

PROVIDENCE JOURNAL:

Patriots’ third-quarter performances have been third-rate – Kevin McNamara – McNamara writes that ‘it’s tough to say exactly what goes on in the 12-minute halftime periods that Bill Belichick and his coaching staff lead these days. What is clear is that whatever is being said isn’t working.’

ENTERPRISE NEWS:

It’s been third-and-wrong for the Patriots – Glen Farley – Farley looks at the Patriots third down problems, which obviously a this point has been an issue.

ATTLEBORO SUN CHRONICLE:

FARINELLA: Pushing loyalty a little too far - Mark Farinella – Farinella has his take on what happened this weekend, and some additional comments after witnessing some of what went on at the stadium after the game.