New England Patriots EDGE Eric Lee made an extremely fast adjustment to the defense. The Patriots signed Lee on November 21st. Five days later, he was playing 25 snaps (41%) against the Miami Dolphins. The next week, he played 57 snaps (85%) against the Buffalo Bills, tied for the fourth-most by a Patriots defender.
“First of all, he's worked really hard,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said about Lee’s adjustment to New England. “From the first day he got here, he came early, stayed late, asked a lot of good questions. He's smart; he picks things up well.
“I think that his time in Houston was beneficial for him, again. I think a lot of the techniques we teach are similar to what Mike [Vrabel] and the Texans teach. Obviously, there's some different calls and stuff, but a lot of the fundamentals, there's some carry over on that and probably just in general, the overall way that he played down there and he was able to – some of that translated to what we do.
“He was able to, from a technique standpoint, pick things up. Obviously, some assignments he had were specific to what we do, but again, he's a sharp kid. He works hard and he's got good skills. He's long, and he's got good power and he can run.”
In a short time, Lee has become an integral piece of the Patriots defensive front, picking up 8 tackles, 2.5 sacks, an interception, and a pass defended in just two games.
Lee replaced Cassius Marsh in the defensive rotation and it’s clear that he’s an improvement. Where Marsh would lose contain on the edge or run by the quarterback in an attempt to disrupt the pocket, Lee shows incredible control and an ability to make sure he never lets the quarterback gain depth in the pocket.
Here, Lee is the left defensive end, lined up across from the right tackle, and he does a nice job getting up the field and then turning his hips towards the quarterback to squeeze the pocket. Marsh would have run past the quarterback, but Lee’s body control put him in position to grab Nathan Peterman and drag him to the ground.
Lee also registered a sack against Tyrod Taylor earlier in the game, something that the coaching staff definitely noticed and appreciated due to Taylor’s elusiveness.
Lee drops into contain for the bootleg from the left defensive end position and immediately plants and drives towards Taylor. Perhaps it might have been wiser for Lee to move horizontally along the line of scrimmage with Taylor to run the quarterback out of bounds or to throw it away because that could have been a big gain.
While it wasn’t a pretty or clean sack, he manages to trip up the quarterback all the same.
Lee also showed good teamwork with the other pass rushers on the Patriots to get to the quarterback.
Lee pulls off a great stunt with Lawrence Guy on the left side of the screen, with Lee getting a straight line on the quarterback. Lee hits Taylor, who gets rid of the ball that lands incomplete.
Lee has mostly made his contributions in the passing game and still has a lot of growing to do against the run. He can contain the edge, but he doesn’t get enough push to close the running lanes created by the right tackle and he needs to work on disengaging from his blocker. But the first signs of production from Lee are certainly promising.
The CBS broadcast had a fun time discussing Lee’s rise from anonymity, sharing a story of how Tom Brady and the Patriots offense didn’t even know Lee was on the team for the Dolphins game.
Tony Romo shared a pretty funny story yesterday about Brady and Amendola having no idea who Eric Lee was during the Miami game. pic.twitter.com/PYtm79N4Eg— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) December 4, 2017
“He looks up last week against Miami,” Tony Romo relayed about Brady, “him and Danny Amendola are sitting on the bench, and he looks at the monitor and says, ‘Oh, good job by...Eric Lee? Who is that? Wait, he’s on our team?’
“He looks at Amendola and says, ‘Who is Eric Lee?’”
“They both had no idea,” Jim Nantz added.
The entire Patriots team is definitely aware of what Lee brings to the table now and with New England playing in prime time this week, so too will the rest of the country.