The Patriots made a huge offseason trade when they dealt Chandler Jones, the team's best pass rusher over the past several seasons, to Arizona for Jonathan Cooper and a second-round pick. Jones took his 12.5 sacks with him to the desert but he did not leave the cupboard bare when it comes to pass rushers.
New England still has the steady Rob Ninkovich, who has 42 career sacks with the team, as well as Jabaal Sheard, who finished second to Jones a year ago with eight sacks. In addition the Patriots signed veteran Chris Long, who has 54.5 sacks to his credit despite battling injuries in St. Louis the last couple of seasons. Add to that mix a talented pair of linebackers in Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins, plus a young emerging presence in Trey Flowers, and the potential exists for the Patriots to turn up the heat.
That would figure to be a big part of the defensive game plan this week against a Miami team that struggles to protect Ryan Tannehill, who can at times be rattled by that heat. Tannehill was sacked five times in the opener at Seattle, so it makes sense that the Patriots would try to get after him on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
While the Patriots have never been about individual statistics, this week's Samsonite Make Your Case question is: Who is the Patriots best pass rusher?
PFW's Andy Hart says ...
I think Jabaal Sheard was the team's best pass rusher last season when Chandler Jones was still here, so I feel even stronger about it today. He finished second on the team with 8 sacks a year ago and that was despite missing time due to injury and splitting reps with Jones and Rob Ninkovich.
This season with a full workload Sheard will be even better. He has the all-around ability to dominate in the pass rush. He can beat you with speed or power, and he also has a variety of moves that he's used to his advantage. He's going to be on the field more often than he was year ago, and that will allow him to wear down his opponents and get after the passer with even more regularity.
Sheard may not get all the attention some others do, but he can flat out rush the passer and he will be the team's sack leader in 2016.
PFW's Paul Perillo says ...
Admittedly my selection is a bit out of the box, and I'm not expecting Flowers to lead the team in sacks this season. But if the question is: Who is the Patriots best pass rusher I have a hard time choosing anyone but Flowers.
From the moment he arrived in training camp last summer, Flowers has shown the ability to beat linemen off the edge. He did it on the practice field and he did it during his first preseason game. Unfortunately he missed most of his rookie season with a shoulder injury, but this summer he was right back to dominating.
Assuming he can remain healthy, Flowers will show his explosiveness off the edge and prove to be a valuable rusher in sub packages. Some guys just have a knack for being able to get to the quarterback and from I've seen so far Flowers seems like a natural.
Now it's your turn to cast a vote in this week's Samsonite Make Your Case poll question