The tape does not lie. The New England Patriots pass rush was awful during the 2017 season. It was one of the many reasons why the Patriots lost Super Bowl LII to the Philadelphia Eagles. Trey Flowers was arguably the team’s best pass rusher in 2017, but he needs help. They could address this issue via trade, free agency, or through the draft. The Patriots must fix this if they want to bring home another Lombardi Trophy.
Fixing the Abysmal New England Patriots Pass Rush
Patriots Pass Rush
The Patriots pass rush unit during the 2017 season finished with 42.0 sacks which were tied for seventh in the entire NFL. This sounds solid on paper, but when it came to third down the team could not get off the field many times during the season. This was a factor in all of New England’s losses in 2017. Flowers led the team with 6.5 sacks, Kyle Van Noy was second with 5.5 sacks, and Deatrich Wise Jr. came in third with 5.0 sacks. The production is solid for guys who would probably be anywhere from second to fourth in sacks on an average team. The Patriots need a pass rusher who can average around 10.0 to 15.0 sacks per game.
Patriots Free Agents
The Patriots could go the route of free agency to pick up an addition to the pass rush. James Harrison, Ricky Jean-Francois, Geneo Grissom, and Marquis Flowers are all free agents this off-season. Grissom and Jean Francois will likely not be back in New England in 2018. Flowers had a nice year for a young player in the Patriots system. Flowers will likely be back in 2018. Then there is Harrison who’s a different story. Harrison will be 40 in 2018. He did not play a full season with New England, and it is unsure if he can be productive at his age. Harrison could return to New England on a small salary, or he could go elsewhere. Harrison wasn’t bad during his short stint in New England, and there is still potential for him to contribute to the Patriots.
Available Free Agents
The Patriots do not have a ton of cap space in the off-season. As of now, they are estimated to have around $13 million in available space. There is some room to go get a solid pass rusher. Some options for defensive ends are Trent Murphy and Alex Okafor. Both are coming off of injuries, but when healthy can put up productive numbers. Murphy missed the 2017 season with a torn ACL and MCL. He recorded 9.0 sacks in 2015 with the Washington Redskins. Okafor recorded 4.5 sacks in 2017 until an Achilles injury ended his season after 10 games with the New Orleans Saints.
Dontari Poe had a nice 2017 season and could be an option in the interior. Poe has the ability to stop the run and put pressure on the quarterback. Kyle Williams may be 35 but can still put up solid numbers at his age. Candidates at outside linebacker are Junior Galette and Tahir Whitehead. Galette has had trouble avoiding injury but has played really well when healthy. Whitehead has the ability to put pressure on the quarterback but struggles in pass coverage.
2018 NFL Draft
Patriots 2018 NFL Draft Picks:
Round 1, Pick 31
Round 2, Pick 9 or 10
Round 2, Pick 31
Round 3, Pick 31
Round 4, Pick 36
Round 6, Pick 31
— LWOS Patriots (@LWOS_Patriots) February 27, 2018
The Patriots have multiple picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. LSU’s Arden Key, Ohio State’s Sam Hubbard, and local Boston College product Harold Landry could be available for New England. Key was one of the SEC’s best pass rushers, recording 12 sacks and has elite speed off of the edge. He was the best player on the LSU defense. Key has a ton of upside and could be an option at pick 31 or the second round pick via the 49ers.
Then there is Hubbard who recorded 7.0 sacks for Ohio State this past season. He has a great skill set and natural raw talent. He has not always lived up to his ability but has had several great moments. Hubbard will be available in the second round for the Patriots.
Next is Landry out of BC. Landry is expected to go in the first round. Either he or UTSA product Marcus Davenport will be the first edge rusher taken in the first round. He could drastically improve the Patriots pass rush. Landry recorded five sacks during his senior season. Some scouts are really high on him while some think he belongs on day two. He should be an option for New England.
The Patriots must address the pass rush problem. The options for fixing the problem could be better, but they will be suitable for the defense. The pass rush will be a major story to watch for the rest of the off-season.
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