Posted by Albert Breer January 22, 2010 09:58 AM
If you want to find one overriding thing that separates the Patriots from the four teams still fighting, it's that they lack the explosiveness those teams have to get to and knock the quarterback around.
There's no Will Smith or Dwight Freeney or Jared Allen or Calvin Pace here, and so getting a premium edge rusher has to be a priority for the future of the team. Could the Patriots find that guy in the draft? They'll almost have to, since the free-agent market promises to be barren -- only quick-fix types like Jason Taylor are likely to entice -- because of the changes to the rules.
Clemson's Ricky Sapp is one prospect to keep an eye on, with the length that the Patriots look for in their OLB/DE hybrids, and he's got ESPN's Mel Kiper and Todd McShay (subscription required) agreeing in their early projections of where New England will go. Check it out ...
KIPER: The Patriots clearly need help when it comes to getting to opposing quarterbacks, and Sapp is an ideal fit on the edge in the 3-4. He's the kind of athlete who can adjust to being upright and flat-out knows how to get to the quarterback.The guy I think they'll covet -- Texas DE/OLB Sergio Kindle. The Patriots might have to trade up for him, but I think his size/speed ratio, his explosiveness, his versatility to play up and down, and his pedigree, having played for Will Muschamp as a Longhorn will be enough to entice Bill Belichick and Co.
McSHAY: New England desperately needs to improve its pedestrian pass rush, and Sapp has the burst to provide that much-needed spark. He has lined up primarily at end in college but has shown he can be effective working out of a two-point stance and would be a good fit for the Patriots' base 3-4 defense.