The New England Patriots are coming off a disappointing loss to their division rival Miami Dolphins and find themselves in unfamiliar territory this far into the season. Instead of just trying to rest and get healthy for the playoffs at this point this season they’re still trying to figure out just how to fit all the pieces together.
Typically, all the wins and losses fall squarely on the shoulders of Tom Brady and the offense, but this year the usually high-flying New England offense has been average at best. In order for them to make a legitimate run at a Super Bowl, they’re going to need the defense to step up and do their part.
That defense starts with the pass rush. In today’s NFL you can’t stop good offensive teams if you can’t get consistent pressure on the quarterback. And the New England pass rush begins and ends with second-year defensive end Chandler Jones. An athletic edge rusher, Jones broke onto the scene earlier this year with 10.5 sacks in the first 11 games of the season.
But since then Jones has managed to take down the opposing quarterback only once. Most of that is because he doesn’t have enough help on a defensive line that, due to key injuries to veterans like Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, features more than one undrafted rookie in the regular rotation. Jones is consistently drawing a double-team these days, leaving single blocking on the other side for rushers like Rob Ninkovich.
The Patriots, as always, have their sights set on a championship run this year. They won’t get there with just offense, and they certainly won’t win the big game without their defense playing better than they have the last few weeks.