In the early portions of their dynasty, the New England Patriots had some considerable star power along their defensive line: Richard Seymour, Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork were all drafted by the team in the first round (in 2001, 2003 and 2004, respectively) and combined to earn seven Super Bowl rings as well as 10 All-Pro and 12 Pro Bowl nominations. Together, they served as the anchors on some of the best teams in NFL let alone franchise history.
Since Wilfork departed as the last member of the group following the 2014 season, however, the Patriots have had no true star players to man the interior of their D-line. While players such as Malcom Brown and Alan Branch were all productive role players for a period of time and helped the team win the Super Bowl to cap the 2016 season, they never played on a level worthy of the same recognition like their predecessors did.
That being said, one player has made a strong case for himself over the last three years to potentially join the ranks of Seymour and company one day as the best defensive tackles of the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era: Lawrence Guy, who joined the organization as a free agency signing in 2017 and has played some tremendous football since then. This year is no exception, as Belichick pointed out during a media conference call on Sunday.
“Lawrence played well again [on Saturday],” he said after his team’s 24-17 win over the Buffalo Bills. “He’s played well all year. He does a very good job of playing his position, which is really multiple spots across the line. He’s a hard guy to block, he’s got good power, uses his hands well, he’s instinctive, he recognizes plays well and plays very consistently. He’s probably one of the most consistent players we have on our team.”
As such, the 29-year-old has become one of the indispensable members of the NFL’s number one scoring defense — a player that performs well despite regularly being on the field for a high number of snaps: so far this season, Guy has appeared in all 15 of the Patriots’ games and has been on the field for 462 of a possible 886 defensive snaps (52.1%) which is a heavy workload for a player listed at 6-foot-4 and 315 pounds.
However, he has made his time on the field count. Just ask the Bills, who found out first-hand how disruptive of a player Guy can be despite currently ranking only ninth on the team with 17 quarterback pressures: he finished the game with four tackles classified as stops by Pro Football Focus (plays that fail to reach 40% of the needed yardage on first down, 50% on second down, and a conversion on third and fourth down) and also registered a 12-yard sack as well as two additional quarterback disruptions.
As Belichick said, Guy has been as steady a defender as they come and this has helped the Patriots defense across the board: the linebackers can play more aggressively knowing that the point of attack will be secured, while the coverage does not have to worry about staying in pass-catchers’ pockets for too long with a strong pocket-push being created. While Guy is not alone in doing all these things, he certainly is doing them at a very high level.
Not bad for a guy who entered the league as a seventh-round draft pick and spent time on four different teams in the six years before coming to New England. If he can keep up his strong play over the remaining one-plus years left on his contract (and possibly beyond), Guy will not just be in a position to add to his lone Super Bowl ring but also to maybe even enter the hallowed halls of the Patriots’ great interior defensive linemen.