New England Patriots Bill Belichick will be the last person in the organization to reveal any sort of strategy or plan for the roster, so it’s interesting how he responded when asked about possibly adding another pass rusher with so many players currently dealing with injuries.
“Not right now,” Belichick replied. “We just got done with this game. Right now, I'm not really exploring anything. I'm going to back and look at the film, make corrections and do what we can with the team and move on from there like we always do.”
Patriots rookies Derek Rivers (ACL) and Deatrich Wise Jr. (concussion) were unable to play, while Genero Grissom (undisclosed) was hurt late in a joint practice against the Houston Texans. Keionta Davis just signed with the team and is still working to get on the field.
All of these absences, along with the coach’s decision to not play Trey Flowers and to hold out Dont’a Hightower and Shea McClellin, left the New England defense shallow on the edge.
Kony Ealy and Harvey Langi led the defense in snaps and both played a lot on the edge. They were joined by Caleb Kidder, Kyle Van Noy, and Adam Butler. None of these players were able to generate any consistent pass rush as DT Lawrence Guy (sack) and Butler (1 quarterback hit) were the only players to really affect the quarterback at any point during the game.
The availability of Flowers and the hopefully near-return of Wise changes the entire make-up of the defense and that’s probably why Belichick doesn’t feel a big need to address the position.
There are three main pass rush positions, along with two defensive tackle roles, in the New England 5-man defensive front. There’s the strongside linebacker, which will likely be either Dont’a Hightower or Shea McClellin in the regular season; Langi played that role against the Texans. There’s the weakside defensive end, which will likely be Trey Flowers, backed up by Kony Ealy. And then there’s the strongside defensive end, who plays more like a 3-4 defensive end against the offensive tackle, which will likely be Wise and Guy and Ealy and Butler at various points, depending on the down and distance.
The Patriots have enough talent on the roster to have a two- or three-deep at each of those positions when Wise, Hightower, and McClellin return. Belichick would rather see his younger players take advantage of their opportunities in the preseason and grow with experience than add a veteran that might not make the final roster.