The New England Patriots will have plenty of questions to answer surrounding the defensive line heading into the NFL offseason. The team will not only look to upgrade a run defense that was ranked 26th in opponents yards per game, but they will potentially be looking to replace their two stalwarts in the middle, Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler. The pair are slated to become unrestricted free agents on March 17th.
As things stand, the Patriots will open training camp with six defensive tackles who have played a total of 34 games in a Patriots uniform. Butler and Guy have played a total of 125 between them. The one thing that group had was experienced, top line starters, and that could all be gone.
Regardless of the way free agency unfolds, the Patriots will need to make some changes at defensive tackle, one of the team’s least reliable units. Drafting a premier prospect at the position who’s played for a Bill Belichick confidant would be a good start.
Name: Christian Barmore
Position: Defensive Tackle
School: Alabama (RS-Sophomore)
Opening day age: 21
2019 stats: 11 games; 37 tackles (22 solo), 8.0 sacks, 9.5 tackles for loss, 3 passes defended, 3 forced fumbles.
Size: 6’5”, 310 lbs
Expected round: 1st
#Patriots Draft Target Thread: DT #58 Christian Barmore (Alabama) 6’5” 310lbs.— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) January 20, 2021
• Disruptive playmaker.
• Versatile along the defensive line.
• High end interior pass rusher, strong at the point of attack and relentless in pursuit. pic.twitter.com/loXDfhMIQI
Strengths: Barmore is as disruptive a college defensive lineman as you’ll see. He excels as a pass rusher, making a name for himself in that department early in his time in Tuscaloosa. Though he doesn’t use a variety of rush moves, Barmore has a stab and rip move that would make Von Miller proud. His length and foot speed make him a hard assignment for any offensive lineman. He can get to the quarterback from virtually anywhere along the defensive line.
Barmore doesn’t have many pass rush moves but that doesn’t matter because his club/rip is the best I’ve ever seen. He’s going to rip someone’s arm off one of these days. pic.twitter.com/ciRmNgY6Nz— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) January 20, 2021
Barmore’s best attribute as a run defender is his athleticism, he just moves in ways that 300+ pounders shouldn’t be able to move. His hands are extremely violent, making it easy for him to create separation at the point of attack, where he can then diagnose a play and react. That is one of those things that can’t be taught that everyone always talks about. He’s also one of the better players in this class at splitting double teams, he does a good job of controlling his base and working within the frame of the man opposite him.
He’s also a really good run defender when allowed free movement. Here he holds off the reach block, mirrors the running back and makes the tackle that essentially sealed the National. Championship for #Bama. pic.twitter.com/26FTq7dBen— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) January 20, 2021
Along with his skills as a pass rusher and run defender, Barmore uses his tremendous play recognition to sniff out screens so well that it’s noticeable, not something that can be said about other young lineman.
Weaknesses: Much like Dwight Schrute, Barmore’s biggest weakness is also his biggest strength. The pass rush. Though he’s able to put up big numbers and be disruptive in his pass rush, he also struggles staying controlled. Always working the outside shoulder, Barmore leaves a lot of running lanes for mobile quarterbacks. That is a HUGE no-no for players under Bill Belichick.
Another small negative you find in Barmore is his struggle to get off of blocks and how he loses a lot of ground when a lineman is able to engage in his chest, luckily for him, that doesn’t happen very much. If he’s able to add weight, particularly in his lower half, he should be able to sure that up.
When watching Christian Barmore’s tape, the one thing that comes to mind is that he needs more time. He just needs to develop into a more complete and consistent player. He should have plenty of time in the league to do that.
What would be his role? Nick Saban, Alabama’s head coach and good friend of Bill Belichick, has already set the blueprint for Christian Barmore’s development. Early on he should be used as a situational pass rusher, similarly to how Adam Butler was used early on in his career. With the growth that would be expected, Barmore’s ceiling is as an every down player at the 2- and 3-technique.
Does he have positional versatility? Boy does he! Barmore played pretty much everything but the five technique (outside the offensive tackle) in his time at Alabama. Though he works best in the A gap (a lot of his production came on early downs playing in between center and guard), he saw most of his pass rush snaps in the B gap, between the guard and tackle. He can play all over the defensive line.
Who’s his competition? In terms of guys that are signed for 2021, no one. There isn’t a single player on the current roster that brings the kind of versatility and potential that Barmore would bring to the Patriots. He would immediately slide into conversation for the top three rotation with Byron Cowart and Beau Allen.
If the Patriots were to sign either one of their own or a new free agent, Barmore would start out by cutting his teeth on passing downs. That is where many, including myself, believe he would excel and be able to grow. It is also the most likely scenario, there is little chance they enter the season with a rookie, a third year rotational guy, and someone who just missed an entire season.
Why the Patriots? The Patriots will undoubtedly be looking to improve the run defense that gave them fits in 2020. With the potential departures of Guy and Butler, and the potential addition of Dont’a Hightower to the linebacker room, those reinforcements will come in the form of a defensive tackle, Christian Barmore just happens to be the top option in the draft.
Here another great run defense rep. Beats the center and reestablishes his feet before making the tackle. Just better than the man in front of him. pic.twitter.com/ClodPuXz1n— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) January 20, 2021
Why not the Patriots? Though the run defense gave the Patriots fits, the offense collectively gave the entire region of New England high blood pressure. There are much more glaring needs in the first round of the draft that many would hope be addressed.
Verdict: If the top three wide receivers in the 2021 class get drafted before the Patriots pick at No. 15, it should be expected that the team use it to try and shore up along the offensive or defensive lines. Barmore is the top option in doing so. The fit is there, the Alabama/New England ties are there, and the potential is certainly there. Will the Patriots act on it? There’s no reason not to. Barmore is an immediate upgrade.