New England Patriots Analysis: Defensive Tackle Pass Rush

The doldrums are setting in on full blast, so it is time to take a closer look at what happened last season in the context of what the New England Patriots have done in the offseason. It’s time to take a look at some numbers from the 2012 season and have fun with them, but it is also time to reflect on those numbers going forward. To start off this “Stats Series” that looks behind the numbers, let’s start with a quick and easy look at the pass rush that the Patriots defensive tackles provided.

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, and Brandon Deaderick were the three players to receive heavy snaps at DT, and only one of them remains on the team heading into the 2013 season. Both Deaderick and Love were recently released by the team, and both players now have homes with the Jacksonville Jaguars. While I will miss Love for his solid run defense, Deaderick’s cut was a long time coming. Neither of them provided any sort of pass rush (as you will see), and Deaderick was a poor player overall. He did receive more playing time down the stretch of the 2012 season, but more playing time doesn’t automatically equate to better quality.

It is obvious that the Patriots have made every effort to get more pass rush at the defensive tackle position, and both Tommy Kelly and Armond Armstead are DTs who specialize in that facet. Last season, the Patriots got almost no pass rush up the middle, and they look in a better position to alleviate the pressure on the secondary by providing pass rushing ability at DT. When pressure comes from the interior, it collapses the pocket and affects quarterbacks more than pressure off the edge.

Armstead and Kelly will both inject pass rushing prowess to the Patriots defense on the inside, and that was something neither Love nor Deaderick could provide.

Just take a look at the numbers that include playoff games. In 13 games, Deaderick had just one sack and two hits on the quarterback, while Kyle Love had just one hit on the quarterback for a four-yard sack. Neither of them consistently brought pressure either, as both were clearly in the “red” in the Pro Football Focus’s grades for pass rushing.

Wilfork’s best asset is his run defense, as he is the big man in the middle who is amazing against the run and clogs up holes. However, he was actually decent as a pass rusher last season, mainly because he was able to use his size to swallow up blockers. But he also had four QB hits, three sacks, and even finished with a slightly positive grade in pass rushing per PFF.

And yet, therein lies the problem. If Wilfork was your best pass rushing defensive tackle, then you clearly had problems there. Both Love and Deaderick were abysmal as pass rushers, and it was clear to me that Deaderick was part of the problem. I don’t know why a few fans were surprised by his release, because he, quite frankly, stunk last season. The Patriots needed more pass rush up the middle of the defense, and they were able to get it in free agency by signing a rookie in Armstead and a veteran in Kelly; one of those guys is going to pan out and both help this team out.

I firmly believe the Patriots are going to sign another defensive tackle heading into training camp, and it is going to be a veteran like the two guys they recently worked out in Sedrick Ellis (formerly of the New Orleans Saints) and Spencer Johnson (formerly of the Buffalo Bills). A vet DT will make the roster as a backup if either UDFAs Joe Vellano or draft-snub Cory Grissom of USF don’t immediately pan out in training camp for the Patriots.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.

Topics: Armond Armstead, Brandon Deaderick, Kyle Love, New England Patriots, Tommy Kelly, Vince Wilfork

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  • Willy W

    I like Ellis more than Johnson but I agree they need to add at least 1 more DT. And you know me I wouldnt stop there as I firmly believe they need 1 more DE as well. Hope Im wrong but I dont think so.

    • Joe Soriano

      Yeah, we’ll see how things shake out on the defensive line. Ellis has more talent than Johnson, but Johnson is more of a steady producer than Ellis.

    • Cyrus Geller

      I agree Willy, DT is a need for the Pats in terms of depth right now. They don’t need anybody flashy, but depth is definitely a little bit of an issue at the moment.

      • Willy W


  • unclealfie

    I’m not sure why they’re interested in Ellis; he had only to 12.5 sacks as a starter over 5 years in NO. As a former #1 pick, he seems like a classic underachiever.

    • Willy W

      Because we arent looking at him for Sacks. DT normally get alot less Sacks compared to DE’s depending on the system. Like Cyrus said, we need Depth at DT, not some flashy player & Ellis fits the Bill, in fact Id take him over Johnson, talent or no talent aside he’s the better choice for the Pats IMO.

      • unclealfie

        I realize that DT isn’t the premier sack producing position in the NFL BUT these numbers are similar to what Deaderick and Love produced and was cited as one of the primary reasons that they were let go. I see this as strange in that the article stated the Pats were seeking to get more pass rush out o the DT position.

        • Willy W

          Ya I kn t IMO the reason they let Love go was they feared his Diabetes n diet would prohibit him from being the same player & definately prevent him from improving. As for Deaderick, they let him go because he sucked, pretty simple.
          As for whether they want more sacks, YES from their Starting DE’s & DT’s but IMO they would only bring either Ellis or Johnson in as a Back up, so whether their good at sacking the QB or not isnt as big of a concern.

          • unclealfie

            I have diabetes. As long as you taker your meds and stay on diet, you’re as good as anyone. Granted that Deaderick has been a deadbeat (get it; deaderick/deadbeat)? As far as these two being backup; backups to who? They don’t have a DT who can produce an inside pass rush, unless I missed something.

          • Willy W

            Sorry you have diabetes wouldnt wish that on any1. IMO the second the Pats heard of his diabetes & the fact Love’s DR’s told him he Must lose weight made the Pats walk away from him.
            Im not sure I understand your question. The players the Pats are looking at are all Back ups not starters.

          • unclealfie

            I’m wondering who the starters are now. I know that Love was a sub but I thought Deaderick was a starter. With him gone, Marcus Forston and Justin Frances are the only DTs on the roster. Seems to me that the new guys are starters by default.

          • Willy W

            Both Tommy Kelly & Armond Armstead are DTs. Add 1 more & they should be in good shape. I still want them to add a DE, my preference is Abraham but Pats are too cheap…

          • Joe Soriano

            Love started over Deaderick, btw, significantly better player. I wish they didn’t release Love, especially since it left them thin at the position, but I also have a feeling diabetes wasn’t close to being 100% of the story. However, one thing that doesn’t get mentioned enough is the fact that the Pats asked him to either take a year off or leave (he chose to leave). I feel like the Pats wanted to see if Love could maintain his weight and keep a year off, but Love felt confident that he could maintain his weight and diabetes (and all that). But idk, just throwing that out there. At the end of the day, either Johnson or Ellis is getting the vet minimum, and it is all about what the Pats want. I absolutely hate how much Ellis has underachieved, but Johnson looks to be declining despite being more of a steady contributor.

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