When Falcons coach Mike Smith began breaking down the strengths of the Patriots defense this week he naturally started with their reigning All-Pro Vince Wilfork before shifting his focus outside to Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich.

The tandem of defensive ends have a budding reputation around the league. They’ve got a way to go before breaking through into the top echelon of pass-rushing pairs but Jones and Ninkovich have certainly begun to get noticed by opposing offenses.

Obviously that’s been the in-house goal as well.

“I think if you can have two guys that are consistent stop the run and get after the quarterback it makes your defense a lot better” Ninkovich said. “I tell Chandler all the time let’s be those bookends out there that people have to game plan against. I think our future looks good.”

The future was extended this week when Ninkovich signed a three-year contract extension through 2016 and Jones’ rookie deal has a team option for 2015. Their experience with one another will certainly help their chemistry as it relates to the timing and spacing of their rushes and it provides a unique opportunity for them to stick together for several years.

Because of the increasing importance of edge rushers whether it’s a 3-4 outside linebacker or 4-3 defensive end those players gravitate toward the big payday in free agency a la Julius Peppers Mario Williams and Cliff Avril.

The Patriots also have been searching for a long-term tandem since the old guard dissipated. They might have thought they had something in 2011 when Andre Carter and Mark Anderson became the first pair of 10-sack players in Bill Belichick’s head coaching history but both looked elsewhere for more money.