Here are three assorted thoughts on the New England Patriots as we head into training camp, and this is something I’ll do every so often as a brainstorming session of sorts. The number will change based on how “meaty” each of the thoughts are, and it is evident that the first thought was exceptionally long and hopefully a bit thought-provoking.
New England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones(95) rushes against the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
1. Friend of the site Mike Dussault of Pats Propaganda partially inspired this type of piece by writing down his random musings heading into camp, and one of them dealt with tempering expectations about Chandler Jones becoming the next DeMarcus Ware or Jason Pierre-Paul type pass rusher next season. That led to me tweeting to him that I view Jones as more of a Michael Bennett kind of player than JPP or Ware, which is probably a controversial statement for some (especially those who don’t know how good Michael Bennett is, although I doubt you underrate him as much as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers do).
We all talk about Jones’s pass rushing ability, and he has plenty of upside in that regard. He was also a pretty good pass rusher as a rookie before that ankle injury, and he will have to be a great pass rusher if he wants to be regarded as an elite end in this league. If Jones could even rush the passer like Ware or JPP in even his fifth year as a player, then I would be happy. Obviously the sooner the more incredible, but I’d like to temper our expectations of Jones a little bit. Just because a player has that sort of ceiling doesn’t mean we should loft those sorts of expectations upon said player, and there’s also a part of Jones’s game that widely goes overlooked.
Listen, Chandler Jones is an excellent run defender. He could blossom into one of the best two-way DEs in the NFL, and a couple of fools would still try and dub him as a disappointment because he doesn’t get the sexy sack numbers. Sacks are overrated, while consistent pressure isn’t and run defense is underrated at DE. That’s why players like Bennett don’t get as much praise as they should. As a rookie, Jones was even better against the run than the pass, and that was a pleasant surprise for many. I think Jones will end up as double-digit sack player (giving a rough estimate on sacks, since that’s easiest to guess at) and a very good pass rusher, but he’s going to be more of a slightly better version of Bennett than the next JPP. But, of course, there is a chance he ends up being the next elite DE; we just shouldn’t expect that to happen.
2. Brandon Bolden is another rookie that started the season hot last year before fading away due to an issue (his was PEDs), and he has the slight edge over LeGarrette Blount to start. But here’s the thing, Blount once ran for 1,000 yards in a season and brings an element of elusiveness and home-run ability that the Patriots don’t have, aside from Shane Vereen as a pass-catcher. Can Vereen run like Blount? Maybe. If his rushing ability has improved from where it was last year, then he could help Bolden hold off Blount. But I believe the Patriots will keep five running backs, because all five bring something different to the table (Bolden is a consistent rusher- the anti-Blount- and is a bruiser) and are all talented.
3. For some reason, I want to question the Patriots offensive line depth, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. If you classify Marcus Cannon as an offensive tackle, then the Pats are four-deep there but would need to add Nick McDonald‘s younger brother Chris (UDFA) on the roster. If he is a guard, then they will roll with three OTs. That’s how I see it shaking out, and the Patriots are lucky that Cannon has the versatility to play at guard or tackle. If you have versatility on the line, then that can make up for a lack of depth.