The Nick Saban-Bill Belichick connection is alive and well, and defensive end Jarvis Green is a New England Patriot as a result.
Just minutes after Louisiana State quarterback Rohan Davey was drafted, Green joined his college teammate as part of the Patriots newest rookie class. Green became the third defensive player coached by Saban in college to be picked up by Belichick in the last two years.
"Anthony Pleasant played for us in Cleveland when I was there and I think Jarvis has some of that kind of speed," Saban said of his second-team, all-SEC team member. "He's not as tall as Pleasant, but he can play with power for his size and played against some very good players in this league. He held his own and I never thought that his ability to play at the point was ever in question. With some of the speed that he has, I think that he can be an effective pass rusher."
One thing Saban feels Green needs to develop is confidence. It may take Green time to learn how to react to the pro game, but having played in a similar defensive system to the two-gap style employed by Belichick should help. Green fit well into Saban's version of the defense last fall, leading the Tigers with four sacks and finishing second with seven tackles-for-a-loss.
"We still control blockers here; even when we play one-gap here we play half of a blocker, control the blocker and react to his block," Saban said. "We just don't run up the field like some teams do. So [Green] has a good background and a similar style of coaching that he's going to get in New England. Bill and I aren't that far apart in terms of how we coach and teach defensive football seeing that we did it together for four years. I don't think it's going to be a problem for Jarvis."
While it's not clear how much Green will play right away, the Patriots definitely needed to get young talent at defensive end. New England's most consistent pass rushers, Pleasant and Willie McGinest are entering their 13th and ninth seasons, respectively. Bobby Hamilton is heading into his seventh season, and free agent addition Rick Lyle is an eight-year veteran.
"We have a little bit of age at our defensive end position so I think Jarvis can be a player who hopefully can gain a little experience," Belichick said. "He'll be playing with some good guys who are good technique players, and [with this move] we can infuse a little bit of youth into that position."
Green was surprised to get the call from the Patriots, since he had not worked out for them before the draft. He got interest from Cincinnati, Oakland, Philadelphia, Chicago and Arizona, but his only contact with the Patriots came through a conversation with scout Jason Licht at the combine.
Despite the surprise, Green is familiar with what the Patriots did last season and expressed excitement about joining a team filled with veterans at his position.
"I wouldn't say that it would be that much pressure, but I like the challenge of playing and going in there and competing with other guys knowing that they have been there and know what it takes to win," Green said. "I will just follow their lead and just learn it from them. I want to go in there and be humble and just work hard. The first thing I want to do is make the team and then after that, just do what the coaches tell me. I just want to go out there and just play for the 2002 Super Bowl Champions."
Green has the ability to get after the quarterback. His 20 sacks rank fourth in school history, but 15 came in his first two seasons. He set an LSU freshman record with eight sacks, tying Tampa Bay's Anthony McFarland for the team lead that season. Back problems slowed him a bit, but Green felt he improved his all-around game when Saban took over the program. Though he had just four sacks as a senior, he also had 25 quarterback hurries, showing he can penetrate the backfield while controlling a block.
"I learned a lot from Coach Saban and my defensive line coach, Pete Jenkins," Green said. "It has been a great opportunity. I have had some ups and downs in my career, but in my last two years I just flourished just from playing the position, playing defensive end and learning from Coach Saban. I mean it has just been a great opportunity."
Obviously he wants to play, but Green also understands he'll likely have to bide his time initially.
"I had 20 sacks at LSU and I am the fourth all-time sack leader here, but I am still young. I am still wet behind the ears," Green said. "I want to learn more and explore more of my potential and just get out there and perform on the field."
Strengths: Has good speed off the edge, but has enough power and strength that he doesn't need to rely on quickness. Started all four years and was productive against high level of competition.
Weakness: A bit undersized. Struggles at times to shed blocks and misses some tackles. Questions about shoulder and back problems hurt draft stock.
Personal: Twin brother, Jason, a backup linebacker, and cousin, Howard, a starting defensive end, were teammates at both LSU and Donaldsonville High School.
Comparable NFL Player: John Engelberger, San Francisco – Similar to the 49ers defensive end, Green has the frame to put on additional weight as a pro. Should have no problem jumping into the 280-plus-pound-range.
What they're saying...
"Green has shown NFL talent while at LSU, but not as much as I felt he would when he was an up-and-coming player in 1998 and 1999."
_Joel Buchsbaum, Pro Football Weekly _