Would You Feel Comfortable About the Patriots Pass Rush without Andre Carter?

Rob Ninkovich is the only Patriots pass rushing option with more than four sacks each of the last two seasons.

For the majority of this offseason, most Patriots fans, including myself, have assumed that it would be a forgone conclusion that free agent defensive end Andre Carter would be returning to the team.

However, as Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reported yesterday, Carter's return to the Patriots is far from a foregone conclusion. The two sides have reached a snag in their negotiations. Carter's side believes he will be fully healthy, and believe he deserves a long term extension at Pro Bowl level money. Meanwhile, the Patriots aren't even sure Carter will be ready for the start of the regular season, and they feel that it would be a risk to hand the 33 year old a long term deal.

Regardless of which side is correct, it's obvious that this could become a very sticky situation heading into training camp. With the loss of Mark Anderson in free agency to the Bills, the Patriots have very few experience options to rush the quarterback. The team spent high draft choices on Chandler Jones and Jake Bequette, but it's hard to tell how much those two will be able to contribute as rookies at this point.

All of this being said, how would you feel about the Patriots pass rush should the worst case scenario, Andre Carter signing elsewhere, become a reality?

To sum up my feelings on the subject, here are the sack totals of the Patriots top options at defensive end from the last two years:

Name

2010

2011

Total

Trevor Scott

1.5

0

1.5

Jermaine Cunningham

1.0

0

1.0

Jonathan Fanene

0 (2 GP, injury)

6.5

6.5

Brandon Deaderick

2.0

2.0

4.0

Rob Ninkovich

4.0

6.5

10.5

TOTAL

8.5

15

23.5

In all fairness, this chart doesn't account for injuries and other factors such as pressures, hits, etc. It's only a measure of sacks. Nonetheless, it's obvious that the veteran options that the Patriots have for pass rushers just haven't produced consistently over the years. Fanene should be given a pass due to injury in 2010, but still hasn't been a full-time player for the majority of his career. On the other hand, a player such as Brandon Deaderick, who has been a solid role player for the last two years in New England, probably shouldn't be counted on as a pass rush specialist. Of all these veteran options, the only one I truly feel comfortable with as a traditional 4-3 pass rushing right end is Rob Ninkovich, who has seen his sack totals rise in each of his three years with the Patriots.

My gut feeling from this is that the Patriots, unless they truly think that rookies Chandler Jones and Jake Bequette can be dynamic contributors, shouldn't feel comfortable with this situation. Andre Carter has a lot of leverage when it comes to contract negotiations with the Patriots and while Carter's demands are too high at this point, the Patriots may have no choice but to concede to some of them.

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