With both Dont'a Hightower and Chandler Jones firmly locked for this season I think this will be a good time to take a good look at the state of our pass rush. As we all now, our two best rushers from last year are no longer with the team. Right now we know we know Ninko will be a solid complimentary rusher for us next year and certainly aid the rush, but who will make up for the 20 sacks production we got out of Anderson and Carter.
Trevor Scott is certainly a candidate; young, experienced has had 5 and 7 sack seasons. Will he be Andre Carter and get 10 sacks? Probably not 4-8 seemed about right, but probably has the most potential to be that. I still see him as someone who will definitely play a big part in giving this team a pass rush. He is another important piece to the pass rush puzzle, but might not be THE GUY, THE CENTERPIECE, THE PLAYER THAT REQUIRES 2 BLOCKERS AT TIMES. Still a guy I would keep an eye on in training camp/Pre-season. That leads us to Fanene. Sub-rusher 6.5 sacks last season. Again not a guy that teams will gameplan for, but will give us a slight boost in interior pressure which aids the collective pass rush. Not as confident with Fanene as I am with Scott that he will be a guy that contribute to that role, but believe he is capable.
So that brings us to the rookies. Jones, Hightower, and Jake Bequette. Jones is raw. JPP a player he is often compared to recorded 4.5 sacks his rookie year with the Giants. Can't really expect him to explode off the scene with sacks, but maybe in the latter part of the season you could see him providing some pressure. Bequette is a more NFL ready rusher. He can potentially be a guy who gets us a good 5-8 sacks. He'll definitely see some time on the edge. A guy to watch in training camp/pre-season also. And now the last rookie, Hightower. His role on the defense is...unclear. We could put him on the edge, in the middle, in zone anywhere you can think of. His versatility guarantees he won't just be used as a pass rusher so 8-10 sacks may be a little too high to expect, but I really hope BB takes advantage of the rush ability. He definitely has some rush potential with his 265 pound frame, sub 4.7 40, 3rd down pass rushing experience. 5.5 sacks at max for HGT.
One player people seem to forget about in our pass rush puzzle is Jermaine Cunningham. This is a make or break year for him. DE/OLB is a crowded position, and if he is still almost almost getting there than he's as good as gone, but if he finally emerges and gets 8 sacks I think he is the final piece to the pass rush puzzle. If he becomes who we wanted him to be in this season, we will most likely have a Good Consistent pass rush. Yes not a "2 man if they can't get there we suck" pass rush, but a multiple 3 to 4 to 5 guy rush. If Cunningham isn't getting pressure, Scott is getting pressure, if Scott isn't getting pressure, Bequette is getting some pressure, if not Bequette is getting neutralized HGT might get there on a blitz or Jones on the edge or Ninko, just having that rotation of guys to rely on would be huge, might even propel this D to the top 10. Cunningham is certainly a guy to watch in training camp/preseason.