The New England Patriots currently have 89 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on September 1 and ultimately make the team. Over the course of the offseason, we take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Today, the series continues with one of New England’s free agency signings.
Name: Adrian Clayborn
Position: Defensive edge
Jersey number: 94
Opening day age: 30
Size: 6’3, 280 lbs.
2017 review: Adrian Clayborn ended the 2016 season on injured reserve due to a torn biceps he suffered during the playoffs. However, he was back on the field in time for the Atlanta Falcons’ preparation for 2017 and ultimately again proved to be a reliable and productive presence along the team’s defensive line – one that basically served as its number one option at defensive edge.
In that role, Clayborn appeared in all 18 of Atlanta’s games last year and finished with a playing time percentage of 53.5% (playing 634 of 1,185 possible snaps). The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers first-round draft pick lined up mostly on the defensive right side (over the left tackle) and played multiple techniques at the position – all while being a steady contributor in the passing game as well as a solid run defender.
Overall, Clayborn finished the season as the Falcons’ team-leader in multiple defensive statistics: he registered the most sacks (9.5) and quarterback hits (19). His numbers, however, are a bit skewed considering that he registered a franchise record 6.0 sacks in week nine against the Dallas Cowboys – a dominating performance without a doubt, but one that came against an overmatched backup tackle.
But despite registering just 3.5 sacks and 13 quarterback hits throughout the rest of the year, Clayborn was still a reliable and productive player for the Falcons that impacted plays beyond the stat sheet: advanced analytics website Pro Football Focus credited its 18th best edge defender of last year with 37 quarterback hurries. 2017 was therefore a productive campaign for a veteran player that struggled with inconsistency in the past.
2018 preview: On the fourth day of free agency, the Patriots signed Clayborn to a two-year, $10.0 million contract. The deal makes the 30-year old a natural roster lock and also should help the Patriots to further solidify their defensive edge spot opposite Trey Flowers – a position that was a revolving door last season and especially struggled when it came to setting the edge in the running game.
While he played primarily on the defensive right during the preseason due to Flowers being out with an injury, it would not be a surprise to see Clayborn regularly line up on the other side as well. As such, he should see regular playing time on early downs and versus the run – all while forming a four-man rotation together with Flowers and second-year players Deatrich Wise Jr. and Derek Rivers.
As a result, it would not be surprising to see Clayborn’s playing time go down a bit when compared to last season. His impact, however, should still be felt and possibly help the Patriots’ defense to tighten up against outside and stretch runs, and when it comes to playing mobile quarterbacks.