We interrupt the Great Annual Debate about whether or not Tom Brady has enough offensive weapons around him and if Bill Belichick should have done more in the offseason to take advantage of his quarterback's closing window to point out the Patriots' defense — specifically, the first-team defense — used its dress rehearsal for the regular season to show that there's plenty of room for improvement. Because it was awful in the 25-14 loss to the Panthers on Friday night.
If you had lingering questions about this unit — from, "Can they generate enough pressure?" and "Will they be able to stop offenses with mobile quarterbacks?" to "Will Belichick finally move beyond bend-but-don't-break?" — none of them were answered affirmatively Friday. The performance will only reinforce deep-seated fears about how much improvement the unit will make this season.