It may be difficult to remember now, but the Patriots’ defense was once one of the best in the NFL. Of course, that was before losing Tedy Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour, Asante Samuel, Jarvis Green and Ellis Hobbs in the span of just three years. Since then, the Patriots have been in rebuild mode on defense with the offense good enough to carry them into the playoffs. During the 2007 undefeated season, New England was fourth in total yards and points against. In the lost 2008 season, the Patriots were 10th in total yards and eighth in points against. The defense was strong again in 2009 as the team was 11th in total defense fifth in points against. The Patriots saw a steep decline in 2010 though, after losing that laundry list of players in the years prior. They ranked 25th in total defense and eighth in points against in 2010, 31st and 15th in 2011 and 25th and ninth in 2012. But it’s time for the defense to shine again, and if injuries creep up on offense, they may have to. The Patriots have almost completely re-built their defense since 2008. The only defensive players that remain from that team are two of the best on the current unit — Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork. The current defense is full of first-rounders and proven contributors. Mayo, Wilfork, Dont’a Hightower, Chandler Jones, Aqib Talib and Devin McCourty were all first-round picks, and veterans Adrian Wilson, Tommy Kelly, Rob Ninkovich and Brandon Spikes have all played at a high level in the NFL. Continuity goes a long way in pro football, as well. And this unit has been slowly built up. The 2013 team brings back 10 starters from the 2012 unit, and there are many more on the 2013 team that started at some point in 2012. The Patriots are chock full of talented players, and at this point, it’s about putting all of those pieces together to create a successful unit, which they haven’t been able to do the past few years. Players that were drafted from 2010 to 2012, like McCourty, are now stepping up as veteran leaders on the team. Due to the team’s experience and intelligence, putting the pieces together should be no problem.