The New England Patriots coaching staff decided to change up their defensive front. The starting edge defenders Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long have been good against the run, but they haven’t been able to produce in the passing game. As a result, head coach Bill Belichick decided to turn over the starting roles to Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich. Long served at the third player in the rotation.
Sheard was effectively benched.
When Belichick was asked why Flowers received a larger role, the head coach’s response seemed to have a message for those that were benched.
“Everybody earns their playing time,” Belichick said after the game. “Players that play the best earn the playing time. If they play better than another player then they play more than the other player. If another player plays better than them then they play less than the other guy. You earn your opportunities. You earn your playing time. That’s the way it is.”
Flowers rewarded the coaches with 2 sacks and some pretty solid play.
Sheard play 16 snaps in the game, with just four coming in the second half. 11 of his snaps came on the Seahawks first two touchdown drives. He did not make the most of his opportunities.
Not a good look for Patriots ED Jabaal Sheard, getting absolutely wiped out by the Seahawks LT. pic.twitter.com/fio309MErH— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) November 14, 2016
Very next play Sheard gets pinned out by the tight end. pic.twitter.com/SCS5F0DSUJ— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) November 14, 2016
This comment from Belichick is important because it’s part of the reason why the team traded LB Jamie Collins before the deadline. Collins was losing time to LB Elandon Roberts in the run game because Roberts was simply more productive. It would appear that Sheard has not been producing in the eyes of the coaching staff- and that he’s actually the least productive since he was 4th on the depth chart.
Sheard is in the final year of his contract and his performance will always be compared to the All Pro caliber season that Chandler Jones has been putting together for the Cardinals.
The Patriots will need to add another defensive end in the offseason.