In what has to be a disappointing show for the second straight year, the New England Patriot defense appears to be in the same league as their counterparts just a season ago. If 2011 looked to finish with a ray of hope for this unit, 2012 has not continued the upward trend. The Patriots are sliding downward, especially in their pass defense, as the year wears on. Without a few big plays in key situations from week to week, the Patriots could easily find themselves in the basement right now.

At least in 2011, the defensive squad found their footing well enough to boost the team through the playoffs and into the Super Bowl (I am sure we have not all forgotten the deft pass break up in the end zone by Sterling Moore during the AFC Championship Game). But despite a decent pass rush, New England was pretty average in the sack department.

The biggest culprit this year is the secondary, which is leading the league in all the wrong stats. And with injuries added to the sub-par play of several players, things aren't looking too promising.

But unlike the majority of the pundits, I actually see a ray of hope for this young bunch, and for the team as a whole. Well, I see 6 rays of hope; and judging from the near successful Super Bowl appearance for the Brady-led Patriots after last season's so so defensive performance, there have been enough signs of improvement to keep Patriot nation from throwing in the towel.

Here is my list, in no particular order.