We finally finished up with the offensive side of the ball, and get into the Patriots defense. After giving up over 500 yards of offense and 40 points to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII, it was evident that New England’s defense needed some upgrades. While their moves weren’t particularly flashy, they did make some improvements, including at defensive end, which was a serious position of need after a dismal year rushing the quarterback.
The Patriots signed Clayborn to a two year, $10 million dollar deal this offseason. He could make an immediate impact for the team as a pass rusher; in 2017 he finished with 9.5 sacks. Some could reasonably argue that this number is inflated because Clayborn had six of those sacks in a single game. This is true, but having a game that successful should be a positive to his season, not a negative. Clayborn is a skilled veteran who has had solid numbers when healthy. He could give the Patriots a much-needed talent infusion at the position, adding sacks or at least QB pressure that the Patriots desperately need.
Flowers is entering his fourth year out of the University of Arkansas and could be set for a breakout year if the addition of Clayborn, along with a healthy Dont’a Hightower, can leave him with one-on-one matchups. In his previous two seasons, Flowers has finished with 13.5 sacks and 68 tackles, which are on par with former Patriot Chandler Jones in his first few years in the league. Flowers has continued to improve, yet has been slowed by a defensive front that has no intimidation factor. Teams can key on Flowers because they know that he was the only one with serious talent. With some help this year, Flowers could push double-digit sack numbers.
Heading into 2017 Wise looked like a redshirt candidate with Rob Ninkovich and fellow rookie Derek Rivers ahead of him on the depth chart. A retirement and an injury forced Wise into a starting role, in which he performed admirably considering the situation. He finished the season with a respectable five sacks and 16 tackles. Wise’s has a ridiculous combination of size and raw talent and could develop into one of the best pass rushers in the league. However, he has a long way to go in the developmental process, and year two will be a good indication of how he will turn out.
The Patriots first pick (third round) in the 2017 draft spent the entire year on injured reserve after tearing his ACL in the preseason. Rivers had a monster senior season at Youngstown State in 2016, finishing with 14 sacks and 58 tackles. He has good size and speed, and he will be an extremely solid addition to the Patriots pass rush if he can return from his injury in 2016 form.
Davis was placed on the Non-Football Injury IR last season, ending his 2017 campaign before it began. He has good size and strength and was extremely successful against FCS competition. While it seems likely now that he will have an uphill climb to make the roster, he could earn his spot with a great showing in camp.
Lee joined the team in 2017, after being signed off of the Buffalo Bills practice squad. He had a significant impact on the team, with 3.5 sacks and 19 total tackles. He improved noticeably throughout the season and could be even better after a full offseason with the team. He also has some ability to play linebacker as well, albeit not in any coverage situation.
The fourth-year player is coming off of his worst season yet, playing in just eight games and being released and resigned on a number of occasions. His time in New England is likely coming to an end, especially if Rivers and Davis emerge as strong contenders for spots.
The Miami product had a solid career for the Hurricanes, including being selected to the Third Team All-ACC in 2017. He seems to lack NFL size, strength, and speed but could make up for those with his impressive technique and determination.
The Patriots need a pass rush, and these players will be crucial to making that happen. Just on paper, it seems like a much better group than the one that the team carried in 2017.
Until next time – B$