After a slow start to the season, Trevor Scott has been exactly what the New England Patriots have needed him to be since Chandler Jones injured his ankle against the Indianapolis Colts and left the game. Scott received a larger role as a result and has played in about 50 snaps over the past two games in which Jones has been absent. Scott was injured against the New York Jets back in October and finally returned in Week 11 against the Colts.
His return from the hamstring injury was a good one, as Scott consistently pressured Andrew Luck in a new sub-package role. Even though he has just one quarterback hit this season, the 28-year-old veteran hasn’t had many opportunities to this point. The best word to describe his performance in the past two games is “solid”, and he did exactly what a veteran pass rusher needs to do when a good starter goes down. Be the next man up and take Jermaine Cunningham’s place as the sub-package pass rusher with Cunningham manning the RE spot.
Now, it looks like the former Oakland Raiders DE will be the next starting end for the Patriots opposite Rob Ninkovich. Cunningham has been suspended for the next four games for using an unannounced banned substance, and this is a huge blow to the Patriots already weak pass rush. If Jones isn’t able to return soon, then Scott will need to step up as the emergency starter. Even if he does return, he will still need to continue to perform well as the sub-package pass rusher.
The Pats could also turn to Justin Francis as the starter, but it seems clear to me that Scott is the better option. Not only does he have more experience, but he’s also the better player right now. Back in 2009 while with the Raiders, Scott had seven sacks, 11 QB hits, and 11 tackles for loss in a terrific season. A year later, he had five hits on the quarterback in a surprisingly limited role before fizzling out in 2011.
Trevor Scott could have been cut by the Patriots this offseason, and a few analysts believed that he wouldn’t make the cut. I’m glad the Pats chose to keep him, and he has not disappointed in the past two weeks. It’s only going to get tougher for him in the future, but there can be no doubt that the decision to keep Scott was a good one. He’s played well to this point, and his mentality going in to Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins is admirable.
Scott via ESPN Boston, “Yeah we have a set-up so as soon as somebody goes down, it’s the next man in. And you’re expected to perform just as well as anybody else. That’s why we work hard every week to stay mentally and physically prepared.”
He’s played well over the past two weeks as the third pass rusher, but it’s going to take more to continue to impress as the starter. Scott has it in him and has been a good pass rusher before, so now it is time to see if he can regain some of his old mojo as a pass rusher and provide pressure at a solid rate for the Patriots. I hope Jones comes back so that Scott doesn’t have to start, but it’s comforting to know that there is a competent veteran ready to go at it against Jake Long and the Dolphins.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.