Pro Football Focus recently ranked the front seven for all 32 NFL teams. Where did the New England Patriots come place?
One of the most underrated aspects about the New England Patriots last season was their defense. All year, the Patriots played very well defensively, but they never quite received the credit.
While the Patriots were led by a really strong secondary, they also had a pretty good front seven. Partially due to the fact that they didn’t have a player total double-digit sacks, the front seven was overlooked by many.
However, there is a lot of talent in this group. Most notably in the front seven is linebacker Dont’a Hightower. This offseason, one of the most important things for the Patriots was to re-sign Hightower. Despite not using the franchise tag on him, the Patriots were able to agree to a long-term deal with Hightower.
Recently, Louie Benjamin of Pro Football Focus ranked the Patriots’ front seven 12th heading into the 2017 season. Here’s what he had to say.
"Retaining Dont’a Hightower huge for this unit, but the recent free agent signing of David Harris is a sneaky nice add, bringing leadership and depth at a position where Hightower has played all 16 games in a season just once in his five-year career. They have solid depth on the interior in Alan Branch, Malcom Brown and Lawrence Guy. While Trey Flowers is a future star who’s talent was on display in the Super Bowl with three sacks and two QB hits, wherever the rest of the pass-rush will come from is a question mark as edge rush remains a weakness on paper."
Obviously for the Patriots, keeping Hightower was huge for this unit. However, the Patriots also made some other nice moves to help improve the front seven.
With the addition of David Harris to the linebacker corps, he should help give Hightower some much-needed breaks during the long season. With Harris in the middle, Hightower can also slide outside more to try and help generate some additional pass rush.
Having Trey Flowers as an emerging star on the defensive line helps balance out this unit heading into 2017. As the Patriots attempt to repeat as champions, the front seven will surely play a pivotal role once again.