BOSTON (CBS) — The New England Patriots are absolutely stacked heading into the 2017 season, and some are already predicting a perfect campaign from the defending champs.

The expectations are sky-high, but WBZ-TV’s Dan Roche and ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss stayed away from the 19-0 talk on Sunday night’s Sports Final, and instead focused on a pair of additions to the New England defense.

First up is David Harris, a 10-year veteran who should help solidify New England’s mixed bag of talent at linebacker. With Dont’a Hightower still leading the way in the middle of the field, Harris’ addition will give Bill Belichick a known commodity to rack up some tackles alongside the All-Pro, rather than another year of musical chairs at the position.

“When you look at the way they used the linebackers last season, they had Dont’a Hightower and then they used three linebackers that they basically combined into one player; Elandon Roberts, Shea McClellin and Kyle Van Noy. To me, the Harris signing indicates they don’t want to do that 3-for-1 deal anymore, so I think Harris will take a lot of time away from those three guys,” said Reiss.

In addition to his passion and an eagerness to win (after spending a decade with the lowly Jets), Harris also gives the New England defense a smart player who should help eliminate big plays from the opposition.

“He is a smart player, and I go back to the play after the Patriots got it to 28-20 in the Super Bowl. Matt Ryan hit DeVonta Freeman for 39 yards, and that could have been the play to bury the Patriots. It was a busted coverage at the linebacker level,” said Reiss. “I almost think a play like that sits with the coaching staff and they feel they can do a little bit better than that.”

The Patriots also traded away a second-round pick to Carolina for defensive end Kony Ealy, who could be a monster addition to the New England pass-rush as they try to make up for the departures of Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard. But while Ealy has loads of talent, questions remain about his commitment and whether or not he’ll be a fit with the Pats.

Reiss said Ealy is “a bit of a wild card” with Training Camp just a few days away.

“Defensive end is a key position for them. You have Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich and then you’re really counting on Ealy. He did butt heads with the coaching staff in Carolina; how is he going to fit in here and how is that going to work? That’s why I look at him as a little bit of a wild card right now.”

Tune in to Sports Final and Sports Final OT every Sunday night at 11:35pm on WBZ-TV, and check out past interviews and guests on the Sports Final video page!


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