PAWTUCKET, R.I. — By season's end in 2015, the upstart New England Patriots defense ranked in the top 10 in points allowed, total yards allowed, rushing yards allowed, rushing average and opponent completion percentage.
It was a terrific year for a group that overcame the departures of Darrelle Revis, Vince Wilfork, Brandon Browner and Kyle Arrington.
The good news: Chandler Jones is the only starter gone from the 2015 unit.
The bad news: Nearly everyone is a free agent after this season.
For one year, though, the Pats should have one of the league's top defenses. There is continuity everywhere, particularly in the secondary, where starters Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty return.
"It's good to have the guys that have been in the system for a couple of years now," Chung said Wednesday at a Play 60 event in Pawtucket, R.I. "We have all learned the same things. We all know our strengths and weaknesses. We can just go out there and play the best to our ability and we can trust those guys."
Stocked with ascending young talent in Butler, Jamie Collins, Dont'a Hightower, Jabaal Sheard, Malcom Brown, the Patriots appear poised to build on their 2015 success.
"We're hoping, but we've got to work to that," Chung said. "I mean, last year is last year. This year is a whole new year. We're just trying to get to that point and once we get to that point, then we've got to stay there. And hopefully we can break that little wall and just try to get even better. This year is a whole new year and (there are) a couple of new guys that we've got to get on the same page and that's what we're trying to do right now."