I'm happy with the Broncos first pick. I was hoping for Jeudy or Lamb and they got Jeudy. I think Lamb has more big play ability but Denver already has Sutton for that, Jeudy is a more well rounded rookie.
Regarding the Patriots returning their elite defense, it will be interesting to see if they fare better against what should be a tougher schedule without nearly as many cupcake quarterbacks. And we did see them get exposed and kind of crumble midway through the season. They went into the Ravens game allowing under 8 points a game and then played five straight decent to great offenses and gave up double digit points in four of the five games, went 2-3 in that stretch and also gave up double digit points in their last three games, all to some of the worst offenses in football last season.
They started the season off against such horrid competition, it kind of set them up to finish as an elite ranked defense though. I mean they played Luke Faulk, Fitz/Rosen, Darnold, Jones, Mayfield, and Colt McCoy. The only good QB was Big Ben in his only game of the season in the opener. And who can really even say if Ben is still good. They gave up 200 rushing yards to the Titans in a game where Henry rushed it over 30 times. They knew exactly what was coming and still couldn't stop it. Not the calling of a really elite defense. They're good, but they have plenty of holes.
Of course, playing in the AFC Least, they'll still have six easy games on defense per year by default, barring some huge leap in play by Sam Darnold or Josh Allen. But they do also have KC, Baltimore, Houston, and the NFC West on the schedule, which includes three quality offenses. I doubt they'll finish #1 again.
I mean, giving up double digit points is...kind of to be expected in the NFL, even for great defenses. Even the incredible 2015 Broncos defense gave up double digit points in 15 of the 16 games they played, and all three of their playoff games. You have to go back to some of the truly all time greats to find teams that were repeatedly preventing teams from scoring past single digits, like the 2013 Seahawks or 2000 Ravens. And, even in those cases, most of those games were against teams with bad quarterbacks. In this day and age, with the rules skewed towards offense as much as they are, you're not going to be consistently holding teams under ten points without the offense not playing up to snuff too.
But that's kind of my point about talking about the second half of the season; even if you just look at the second half, the Patriots were still #1 in most statistical categories. They were #1 in yards allowed, #1 in points allowed, #1 in turnovers forced. Did they have a few bad performances? Absolutely. Even though it doesn't get factored into the general team statistics since the NFL doesn't include postseason games, the Tennessee game wasn't a great look (although Henry did tear up the best regular season team in the league the next week and the eventual Super Bowl champs until Mike Vrabel decided to stop running the ball). But the same can be said of, well, any good defense last year. The 49ers defense got shredded for 465 yards by the Saints. The Bills got 414 yards put up on them by that awful Patriots offense of last year, and 426 by the Cowboys. The Ravens had their own dismal performance against Derrick Henry. The Steelers gave up 400 yards three weeks in a row.
Those are the other four best defenses in the league by yards allowed from last season, and each of them has at least one performance (usually more) that make them look nothing like an elite defense. Maybe we had a year last season where there weren't any "elite" defenses. Maybe that's how the league just is now with all the concessions to offense. Either way, two bad performances don't break a claim for best defense of 2019 imo.