The final glimpse of the Patriots defense last season was not a pleasant memory. Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles marched the ball up and down the field in Super Bowl LII and ultimately defeated New England in a shootout, 41-33.
While the lasting memory of that disappointing night was the absence of Malcolm Butler and the impact it had on the overmatched secondary, what may have been more important was the lack of pressure up front. Foles attempted 43 passes that night, and he was barely hurried let alone hit on any of them.
Considering the state of the defensive ends at the time, that shouldn't have been a huge surprise. Trey Flowers was the only pass rushing option the Patriots had as Bill Belichick was forced to acquire players like Cassius Marsh, Eric Lee and James Harrison during the season in an effort to plug the holes.
None worked, and the Patriots hope to not be in that situation again. Defensive line coach Brendan Daly was asked about the possibility of having more options on the edge in 2018, and he expressed some optimism moving forward.
"We'll see how that plays out. We feel like we have some guys that can help us there," Daly said on Tuesday. "It's an evolving process year in and year out. I can go to other years and say we felt the same way and circumstances change. You get into some different issues in terms of who's available and how many different guys you can take to the game. Even if you felt you had 10 guys who can help you they're not all going to be there on Sunday. I'd say there are some varying roles for some guys and a lot of that has to be settled and determined still."
Two guys that have emerged as potential contributors as Deatrich Wise and Derek Rivers. Wise enjoyed a solid rookie season as a part-time player while Rivers is working his way back from a torn ACL that wiped out the entire 2017 campaign.
Daly has been impressed by the pair of youngsters.
"Two extremely hard-working guys," he said. "They've been as diligent as anybody I've been around through the course or the offseason, through the course of training camp. Really respect the way they approach their business and put in extra time. For young guys I would say that's been impressive to me. We'll see. You'd like to think that's going to pay dividends on the field for them. I'd say you can see tremendous improvement in what they've done."
Wise and Rivers are just two of the additions to the group of edge players. Veteran free agent addition Adrian Clayborn has also been added to the mix, and the infusion of talent should help the front seven after a season where the coaching staff simply had no options beyond Flowers.
"We feel good about the group that we have," Daly added. "I feel good about the quality of depth and the quality of the competition that we've had through the course of training camp."