Among the many things that stood out in Thursday’s preseason victory for the Patriots, their depth along the defensive line really shined, particularly in the pass rush department…
"The Patriots’ pass rush looked deep and dangerous in Thursday night’s preseason opener against the New Orleans Saints, and they didn’t even have starter Rob Ninkovich on the field. Jabaal Sheard, Chris Long and Shea McClellin impressed early, and Trey Flowers, Rufus Johnson and Geneo Grissom kept the heat coming all game.Rufus Johnson: six hurries Trey Flowers: sack, QB hit, two hurries, forced holding Geneo Grissom: sack, three hurries Jabaal Sheard: QB hit, three hurries Chris Long: three hurries, forced holding Shea McClellin: three hurries Vincent Valentine: two hurries Joe Vellano: QB hit Dont’a Hightower: hurry Terrance Knighton: hurry Ramon Humber: hurry"
This is the biggest reason why I wasn’t worried when Bill Belichick traded away Chandler Jones this offseason. They don’t have one dominant pass rusher, but they do have a plethora of talented guys that can really get after the quarterback.
With Rob Ninkovich sidelined for at least a month, Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard will be the starters on the edge for the Pats. Both of them are extremely talented, and as they showed on Thursday, they can rush the passer very effectively. But what makes this defense so dangerous, is the depth they have behind them: Rufus Johnson, Trey Flowers, Geneo Grissom and Shea McClellin will all step in as backups in passing situations, which will keep everyone fresh without sacrificing too much in talent.
On the inside, the top two guys will most likely be Malcom Brown and Alan Branch, with rookie Vincent Valentine and veteran Terrance Knighton subbing in. All four of these players are more than capable of being starters, and the fact that New England can have two of them as reserves speaks to how deep Bill Belichick has built this defensive line.
In other news, our own Connor Fulton profiles safety Duron Harmon.