A few weeks ago, I suggested that the Patriots pass rush missed a player that could generate consistent interior pressure, like DT Dominique Easley. Easley has more snaps as a back-up with the Rams this year than he had in any year with the Patriots, and he’s almost matched his two-year sack and tackle Patriots total in just 10 games.
The Patriots were able to lean on DT Akiem Hicks to step up when Easley was hurt last year, but no defensive tackle has been able to produce the same way in the passing game as Easley did.
To that, Belichick says, “bollocks.”
“I think your definition of [defensive line] players – it probably depends on just how you want to call it,” Belichick said when asked about the pass rush. “I mean, what do you want to call Easley? Do you want to call Easley a defensive tackle? I mean, whatever he was, 270-something pounds. Is he a tackle? Is [Jabaal] Sheard an end? It’s just a matter of semantics in some cases.
“I would say that we’ve had a similar group of players on the field in a lot of those situations for the last three or four years. That’s the way I look at it. I mean, [Dont’a] Hightower – what do you want to call him? Is he an end? Is he a linebacker? Is he a tackle? He’s 260-something pounds and he’s played all of them.
“Chris Long is an end. He’s played those positions. Sheard’s played those positions. Easley’s played those positions. Geneo Grissom’s played some of those positions. [Anthony] Johnson when he was here, I mean, what do you want to call him? I think you’re looking at a lot of similar type of athlete in some of those spots. Whatever the positions is, it is.”
Is there any real difference between using a 6’2, 275-pound Dominique Easley or a 6’2, 275-pound Trey Flowers at defensive tackle?, Belichick seems to be asking. Maybe Easley will stay in the middle against the run, while Flowers would move to the outside, but both can produce a pass rush from the interior.
I actually wonder if Flowers could move to middle in the pass rush if Jabaal Sheard is able to find his 2015 level of play- or maybe Sheard could move into the middle. It’s clear that Flowers has impressed in his time as a starter, and Belichick has often asked his starting right defensive end to play an interior-type role in the 5-man defensive front.
Maybe Flowers could be the key to rekindling the pass rush- and maybe they’ll have a solution before they face Easley in week 13.