The Patriots racked up 42 sacks in 2018, a total that ranked tied for seventh in the NFL. But anyone who watched the defense play understood that the team had trouble applying pressure on a consistent basis and finding a way to do so moving forward was a big priority.
To that end the team signed veteran defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who had 9.5 sacks last year in Atlanta. The Patriots also hope Derek Rivers can return from the torn ACL that cost him his rookie season, and that fellow second-year man Deatrich Wise can continue his development.
All of that should complement Trey Flowers, who led New England with 6.5 sacks last year and should be in the mix to lead the way again in 2018.
Understanding that Bill Belichick often downplays the importance of actual sacks as opposed to consistent pressure, the Patriots still could use a dominant pass rusher to lead the way and force opponents to account for his mere presence as part of their game plan.
With that in mind, this week's Samsonite Make Your Case question will look for candidates to do just that: Who will lead the Patriots in sacks this season?
PFW's Andy Hart says …
I don't feel Clayborn is a dominant pass rusher in the traditional sense but he's a veteran who's been around and finds ways to get some heat on the passer. He's coming off his career high in that department, albeit with six coming in one game, and he's capable to getting to the quarterback.
Clayborn to me represents the safest bet as an experienced pass rusher with a track record of getting the job done. He's not overly flashy but he's consistently been a starter who has found ways to get to the quarterback. Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise should get consideration but their health and youth work against them.
I feel Clayborn will benefit from team's focusing more on Trey Flowers on the other side, as well as the linebackers that often show up in the Patriots pass rushing schemes and find a way to lead the team in sacks this season.
PFW's Paul Perillo
I'm going with track record here and Flowers has shown the ability to get after the quarterback fairly consistently ever since he came into the league. Entering his fourth season, Flowers is ready to take his game up a notch and become one of the league's most respected pass rushers.
Flowers has a nice combination of speed and strength and isn't just a one-trick pony. He can beat tackles off the edge and he also uses quality technique to get inside them at times. He's just scratching the surface of what he's capable of, and with Adrian Clayborn to help out on the other side perhaps this is the year he makes that jump.
Flowers has always been a workmanlike performer who quietly gets the job done. In 2018 he's going to open some eyes and crack into double digits while leading the Patriots pass rush.