With a suffocating defense and elite running game, the New England Patriots have the requisite identity in place to go on a playoff run.
That blueprint was on full display in Sunday’s win over the Jaguars, as the Pats finished with 181 rushing yards on 5.0 yards per carry. The defense, meanwhile, intercepted Trevor Lawrence three times, allowed just 11 first downs, and limited Jacksonville to 253 yards of total offense.
It was the rebound performance you expected after Bill Belichick’s side dropped its previous two games to lose control of the AFC East lead. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the bite, or lack thereof, of the Patriots’ pass rush in the game.
While they didn’t need a lot of sacks to get the job done on Sunday, it’s a little concerning they mustered just two sacks of Lawrence.
With Matt Judon and Co. struggling to generate consistent pressure, Evan Lazar of CLNS Media made a great point on Twitter saying New England needs to get Chase Winovich and Josh Uche more involved on third down.
Chase Winovich and Josh Uche can help unlock the Patriots’ pass rush.
If you thought the stat mentioned above was concerning, the Patriots are tied for the third-fewest sacks in the league (three) over the last three games. Only the Jaguars (two) and Falcons (one) have fewer during that span.
We get Belichick’s reluctance to play Winovich and Uche on early downs. Like Lazar said, they’re extremely undisciplined against the run. However, they might be the best pure pass-rushers on the roster this side of Judon.
With Judon limited after spending all week on the COVID list, it was left to rookie Christian Barmore to get pressure on Lawrence.
For the game, the second-round standout finished with three of the defense’s eight pressures, generated pressure on over 20% of his snaps and won 31.8% of his reps, per Pro Football Focus. He also recorded a sack.
We’ll refrain from coming down too hard on Belichick for the duo’s lack of playing time (Winovich 21 snaps, Uche 19 snaps).
The former saw his first action on the defensive side of the ball since Week 12 after being activated from injured reserve while the latter was just activated off the COVID list Sunday morning and is likely still getting back to speed following his ankle injury.
Assuming Winovich and Uche used Sunday as a tune-up, there’s no reason we shouldn’t see them more involved on passing downs moving forward.
Judon and Barmore have been a revelation for the pass rush, but they shouldn’t have to carry that burden alone. It’s time to get them some help, and Winovich and Uche could be the answer to those problems.