Defensive Weakness: Patriots Pass Rush
Every team needs a solid pass rush and the Patriots’ lack of talent and depth off of the edge has been well documented so far this summer.
Tully Banta-Cain, who has 9.5 sacks last year, resigned this off-season and will be returning as the team’s main source of sacks.
However, it is worth noting that five of those sacks came in two games against the Bills’ sub par offensive line. Opposite TBC are unproven Rob Ninkovich (one career sack) and rookie Jermaine Cunningham (converting from a college defensive end).
The Patriots enter the season with a fairly young defensive backfield. A secondary’s best friend is a pass rush because if pressure is put on the quarterback, it requires them to have to cover them for a lesser amount of time. The Patriots can ill-afford to ask these youngsters to stick their man for 7+ seconds because it’s fairly unrealistic.
So how will the Patriots get pressure on the QB?
One option is signing recently released OLB Aaron Schobel.
The longtime nemesis of Matt Light from his nine year career in Buffalo, Schobel has a remarkable 78 career sacks.
The hold up?
Well, it is widely believed that he would like to play closer to home with the Houston Texans. Also of note, Schobel wants big money. He is 32 and this will be his last time to cash in. That means guaranteed money, and if the Pats are to oblige, it may send the wrong message to holdout guard Logan Mankins amongst other Patriots seeking new deals in the near future (Brady, Moss, etc).
Schobel may be more of a dream than a reality, but we never really know what Belichick and crew have up their sleeve until a move is made. Don’t forget either, Belichick really likes players he sees a lot as he eluded to when he signed former in division rivals Sammy Morris and Sam Aiken a couple years back.
Plan B for Patriots fans and a more likely scenario is Belichick getting creative. Quite often last season, the Patriots deployed defensive sets featuring three safeties. They played Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders deep with the bigger Brandon McGowan in the box. BB has been trying to find a safety to play in the box for years now (ie the Tank Williams experiment).
McGowan did not have any sacks last year, but three safeties is one way to shake things up and put some more speed on the field. Perhaps with a year in the scheme under his belt, McGowan will be better served as an “in the box” weapon.
It is the heart training camp in the NFL. We are itching for some live action.
We want to see our team in real game scenarios. Perhaps we are looking too much into this and are nitpicking.
Or maybe it is truly a cause for concern.
Either way, the Patriots know they need to put pressure on opposing offenses.
My guess is Belichick knows how they will do it.