For as much grief as we’ve given the New England Patriots defensive tackles and linebackers for their 26th ranked run defense, it could be argued that their most inconsistent and physically underwhelming group were their edge players.
Despite his production, Chase Winovich struggled to find consistent playing time on the field. Shilique Calhoun, John Simon, and Tashawn Bower all struggled to find a way to hold the edge, and the litany of practice squad call-ups and rookies looked like, well, practice squad call-ups and rookies.
Those struggles, alongside the large collective of soon-to-be-free agents along the interior, combined to show that the strategy that New England implored in 2020 is not a winning one, and will not be used again in 2021.
So how will the Patriots look to improve that run defense? Perhaps they make a move for college football’s most disruptive run defender on the edge — a man who was so dominant, Syracuse only ran at him once in an entire game.
Name: Carlos Basham Jr.
Position: Defensive end
School: Wake Forest (Senior)
Opening day age: 23
2020 stats: 6 games; 28 tackles, 5.0 sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss, 4 forced fumbles.
Size: 6’5”, 285 lbs
Expected round: Day 2
#Patriots Draft Target Thread: EDGE Carlos Basham Jr. (Wake Forest) 6’5” 285lbs.— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) February 26, 2021
• Elite run defender who will make his money on early downs.
• Strong at the point of attack, no issues setting a consistent edge.
• High upside as a pass rusher, stays true to his keys. pic.twitter.com/cezrv3B7cK
Strengths: You can’t talk about Carlos “Boogie” Basham without mentioning his prowess in the run game. One of the best run defenders in the SEC throughout his collegiate career, Basham dominated opposing rushing attacks with his strength on the edge and relentless pursuit. A smart player, he is extremely decisive against zone read schemes and follows the every down rules that defensive line coaches teach their players. You will rarely see him make mistakes.
Some more run game stuff. At one point Basham had a 20+ game streak with at least one TFL. It was snapped in his 2020 game against Syracuse where the Orange refused to run the ball at him even once. Wake was victorious 38-14. pic.twitter.com/LS7LQ5hAs5— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) February 26, 2021
Basham has great upside as a pass rusher as well. He displayed some great football IQ, working to get even with the quarterback while staying true to his rush lanes and all of that D-line coach gibberish. He’s always going to do the right thing. He is also at his best when rushing from the interior, is great on stunts, and his patience shines from the middle —- something the Patriots should love as well.
An in game example of Basham’s pass rushing prowess on the interior, he’s lined up in a 2-technique in both situations (over the RG). pic.twitter.com/1mCUBLe7Ng— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) February 26, 2021
Weaknesses: There isn’t much room to grow for Basham, both figuratively and metaphorically. His 6’5” frame appears to be maxing out at 285 pounds, where he looks to be as thick as NFL franchises would allow, he may even be asked to slim out a bit if he wants to stay on the edge.
In terms of his playing style, there isn’t much Basham can add to improve his game. He’s got a good arsenal of pass rush moves and his motor runs as high as it can already. They are small things but his weaknesses seem to be exactly what the NFL is trending away from.
What would be his role? “Boogie” Basham is a 4-3 defensive end. In recent years the Patriots have carried only one or two such players on their roster to occupy the edge while they usually deploy a more athletic stand-up rusher on the other side. Basham would be the perfect man to hold his edge while Winovich or Josh Uche come flying around the other side.
Who’s his competition? The only legitimate 4-3 defensive end the Patriots had on their roster in 2020 was Deatrich Wise Jr, and he is scheduled to become a free agent in March. If the Patriots choose not to retain him, Basham can slide right into that role.
Does he have positional versatility? Yes and no. Basham is great against the run and pass so he should be able to play the edge on early downs and slide inside on passing downs. He will not, however, stand up to rush the passer or be a big run-stuffing 0-tech.
Why the Patriots? New England needs to do everything in its power to upgrade the run defense. Adding a player like Basham alongside Dont’a Hightower, who will reportedly return after opting out of the 2020 season, will do just that. If they can also add a 0-tech run-stuffer in the middle of the defensive line, we could see a complete 180 out of the Patriots’ front seven.
Why not the Patriots? If I gave you a reason it would be because I was making one up.
Verdict: Carlos Basham should be a New England Patriot.