Patriots' 60-second rant: A pass rush needs to emerge

Posted Nov. 23, 2010 @ 9:03 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

In case you haven't heard, the Patriots' strength does not lie in their passing defense.

With a young secondary thanks to an injury to CB Leigh Bodden and a lot of fresh faces on the front seven, the Pats haven't found a combination to slow opponents' passing games down.

You can't put too much blame on the secondary, though. Rookie CB Devin McCourty has done everything asked of him. He has three interceptions and has made solid plays in coverage. CB Kyle Arrington, while he was benched for a time last Sunday, has had crucial passes defensed but has also been beaten deep several times.

The safeties are the strength of the secondary. Patrick Chung has emerged as a playmaker and Brandon Meriweather has regained his consistency.

Overall, the defensive backs are not great, but good enough. Nothing will change, personnel-wise, in the secondary the rest of the year. That's what you're going to get.

What the Patriots could use, however, is some kind of pass-rushing threat.

The 8-2 Pats currently sit 24th in the league with 18 sacks on the season, recording five of those in a Week 10 win over the Steelers. Last season, getting to the quarterback was also a struggle as the Pats finished 23rd in the league with 31 sacks.

Last year's leader in sacks, Tully Banta-Cain with 10, has three this season. Mike Wright leads the team with 5½. Obviously sacks aren't the only way to gauge the success of a unit, as for the most part, the front seven has done a superb job of slowing down opponents' rushing attacks. But putting heat on opposing quarterbacks would alleviate some of the pressure coming after their cornerbacks.

OLB Jermaine Cunningham is supposed to be that guy. He is supposed to be the pass rusher of the future. Sure, he is just a rookie, but Cunningham has yet to get after the quarterback consistently. His pressure on Peyton Manning last Sunday seemed to affect Manning's throw that ended up being intercepted at the end of the game.

Aside from the Steelers' game, the Pats haven't blitzed much, but this week would be a good opportunity to put pressure on Lions QB Shaun Hill and develop some pass rushers. It could add another dynamic to a young defense whose strength is up the middle but needs help off the edge.