Pro Football Focus is passing the quiet time of the offseason by releasing their “Top X of 2017” lists and their latest covers the best defensive front sevens in the NFL. Looking at a team’s “defensive front seven” is more of a mental exercise as the vast majority of teams spend their time in the nickel defense (five defensive backs) with just six standard defensive front seven players.
The New England Patriots rank 12th in the list and that seems fair, if not a little generous, for the unit.
“Retaining Dont’a Hightower huge for this unit, but the recent free agent signing of David Harris is a sneaky nice add, bringing leadership and depth at a position where Hightower has played all 16 games in a season just once in his five-year career,” PFF writes. “They have solid depth on the interior in Alan Branch, Malcom Brown and Lawrence Guy. While Trey Flowers is a future star who’s talent was on display in the Super Bowl with three sacks and two QB hits, wherever the rest of the pass-rush will come from is a question mark as edge rush remains a weakness on paper.”
Hightower is the best player in the Patriots defensive front seven, while Branch and Brown form one of the best run-stuffing defensive tackle tandems in the league and Trey Flowers offers a lot of promise on the edge.
But if we’re being realistic, the Patriots are hoping that one of David Harris, Kyle Van Noy, and Elandon Roberts steps up into a full time player next to Hightower so the team can avoid the rotation they featured in 2016. The Patriots also don’t ask their defensive tackles to generate any pressure up the middle, and the…
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