Opening day countdowns are great. So are player profiles. Here at Musket Fire, we decided to combine them and create a Week 1 countdown-oriented, jersey number-dictated player profile series. Yesterday, we looked at No. 94 Chris Jones, and the day before that it was No. 95 Chandler Jones. Today marks 93 days until the New England Patriots open 2015, so we are profiling No. 93, defensive end Jabaal Sheard.
Note that Sheard has ditched the No. 97 jersey he wore in Cleveland and will be taking the No. 93 shirt as a Patriot.
You might have heard that the Patriots were very close to drafting Sheard in the 2011 NFL Draft. Sheard contends that he actually thought the Patriots were going to take him, but instead he fell to the Cleveland Browns at No. 37 overall. When free agency came around, it seemed pretty clear that New England was on the top of Sheard’s wish list.
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In four seasons with the Browns, Sheard totaled 190 combined tackles and 23 sacks. Despite constantly changing coaching regimes and defensive schemes, Sheard consistently produced and has to be viewed as one of the Patriots’ best offseason pickups. He isn’t extraordinary at rushing the passer or stopping the run, but he is an all-around solid front seven defender.
The Patriots got Sheard at a bargain, too: $11 for two years. Defensive ends Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich played an enormous amount last season, so the addition of Sheard to the pass rushing corps will help to ease the load on those guys. Sheard can also bump to outside linebacker if need be.
It’s paramount that the Patriots field a top-notch front seven in 2015, or else the depleted secondary will be left out to dry. Sheard should contribute close to double digits in sacks, complementing Jones and Ninkovich and the rest of the New England pass rush in the process.
Be sure to stop by Musket Fire tomorrow morning as we celebrate 92 days until Week 1 by profiling No. 92, rookie defensive tackle Malcom Brown.