Prototypical Patriots: Basham's effort, power would fit on the edge

Prototypical Patriots: Basham's effort, power would fit on the edge

The Patriots made a high-profile addition to their stable of edge defenders when they traded a second-round pick to the Panthers in exchange for Kony Ealy and a third-rounder, but there is still some work to be done in terms of bolstering that spot on their roster. 

PHIL PERRY'S PROTOTYPICAL PATRIOTS DRAFT PREVIEW

After losing Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long to free-agency, the Patriots have three experienced players ready to shoulder some of the edge load in Ealy, Rob Ninkovich and Trey Flowers. While immediate help would be beneficial, long-term help appears to be imperative with both Ninkovich and Ealy going into contract years. Flowers is locked up through 2018. 

By all accounts, this is a particularly deep draft when it comes to pass-rushers, and even if the Patriots don't pick until the third round at No. 72 overall, they could have a talented piece land in their lap. Below are a few of the names we're keeping an eye on as potential Patriots targets because of their size, athleticism and college production against both the run and the pass.

We're now at the midway point with our Prototypical Patriots series, as this is our sixth. To see the others we've pegged as good fits in New England thus far, head here for boundary cornershere for slot cornershere for linebackershere for safeties, and here for defensive tackles.

Derek Barnett, Tennessee, 6-foot-3, 265 pounds: It came as some surprise when earlier this month Pro Football Talk reported that Barnett had worked out privately for the Patriots. The reason? He's one of the most productive sack artists in the history of the SEC, and many are predicting that he will be selected in the top half of the first round. Should the Patriots land a pick on Day 1 of the draft, Barnett seems like their kind of guy based on his instincts, his uncanny ability to get to quarterbacks and his strength against the run. Physically -- though not in the same class as projected No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett -- Barnett stacks up somewhat similarly to Sheard (6-3, 265). Barnett's arms (32 inches) are shorter than Sheard's (33.5), but they have the same size hands (10 inches) and tested similarly at their respective combines. Barnett had the better broad jump, three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. Sheard had the better 40-yard dash time, vertical leap and 10-yard split.

Jordan Willis, Kansas State, 6-foot-4, 255 pounds: One of the most physically impressive edge players in this year's draft class, he had the second-fastest 40-yard dash (4.53 seconds) of all front-seven players at this year's combine, the second-best vertical (39 inches), the fourth-best three-cone (6.85 seconds) and the 10th-best broad jump (125 inches). He has the motor and the ideal arm length to be able to hold the edge, and he was the second-most productive edge player in college football last season, per Pro Football Focus (80 total pressures). His athletic traits and impressive senior season could get a team to bite at the bottom of the first round.

Tarell Basham, Ohio, 6-foot-4, 269 pounds: Should the Patriots find Basham is available at No. 72, they'll have an opportunity to bolster their rotation on the edge with a player who resembles Ealy in many respects. Both check in at 6-foot-4 and about 270 pounds. Both have 34-inch arms. Both tested similarly at their respective combines in the 20-yard shuttle and the jumps. Basham is not yet a polished pass-rusher, but he's a max-effort guy who earned himself Defensive Player of the Year honors in the MAC. When given an opportunity to play better competition -- against Tennessee during the season and then at the Senior Bowl -- his explosive power to get into the backfield and set a strong edge continued to stand out. The Patriots recently had Basham in for a visit, and Bill Belichick worked him out at Ohio University earlier in the pre-draft process.

Deatrich Wise, Arkansas, 6-foot-5, 274 pounds: If the Patriots are looking for a longer player on the edge for the foreseeable future, they could do a lot worse than Wise. His height, weight, arm length (almost 36 inches) and hand size (10.5 inches) all stack up well with Chandler Jones (6-5, 266, 35.5-inch arms, 9.75-inch hands) when he was coming out of Syracuse in 2012. Jones may have had the edge athletically -- he ran a 4.87-second 40 compared to Wise's 4.92, and he jumped 35 inches comparied to Wise's 33 -- but like Jones, Wise seems to understand how to use his long levers. Not a full-time player in either of the last two seasons, Wise was still very productive when on the field, recording 15 sacks, 23 hits and 44 hurries in 227 pass-rushing snaps over the course of the last two seasons, per PFF. It's worth wondering why he didn't see the field more often for coach Bret Bielema.

Ryan Anderson, Alabama, 6-foot-2, 253 pounds: An under-the-radar player on Nick Saban's star-studded defense, Anderson may be undersized, but in many respects he seems to fit the mold of what the Patriots often like in their edge defenders. He has strong hands that help him handle tight ends and tackles in the running game, he's relentless as a pass-rusher, he has experience dropping into coverage, and he has a nose for the football (five forced fumbled in 2015 and 2016). Plus, coming from 'Bama program, he would understand the demands of a professionally-run organization. Anderson doesn't quite stack up to what the Patriots normally want to see in their draftees athletically. He ran an adequate 4.78-second 40 at the combine but jumped just 28.5 inches at his pro day, which was about four inches fewer than Sheard, six inches fewer than Ninkovich and 10 inches fewer than Flowers. Still, his experience under Saban, his advanced technique and his football IQ could make him an intriguing fit in the draft's middle rounds.

Brissett sees room for improvement but feels he's 'moving in the right direction'

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Brissett sees room for improvement but feels he's 'moving in the right direction'

HOUSTON -- It wasn't the mechanics of his throwing motion that he was concerned about. For Jacoby Brissett, it was the way in which he was seeing the Texans defense, the length of time it took to get a feel for the game, and how his night ended that bothered him. 

"I felt like I was getting my rhythm," Brissett said after the Patriots lost their exhibition with the Texans on Saturday, 23-20. "But you can't really remember all that stuff when the last play happens like that. It's the last one."

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Though the outcome of the game meant nothing, Brissett and his teammates were looking for a game-winning touchdown with less than a minute left when Brissett had the ball knocked from his hands and out of the back of the end zone for a touchback. 

Brissett's night finished up with him going 5-for-10 for 36 yards. He was sacked twice and pressured on seven of his 15 drop-backs. 

The reserves playing for the Texans in the fourth quarter made life difficult for Brissett and his teammates as their first two drives resulted in punts. Brissett was hit twice on those drives, and his first third-down attempt failed when Houston sniffed out a screen. The Patriots had what looked like a third-and-21 conversion on their next sequence, but Devin Lucien bobbled a catch deep over the middle of the field that fell incomplete. 

Brissett seemed to make a couple of relatively difficult throws during his time on the field -- he nearly had a game-winning touchdown pass completed to Cody Hollister on a fade to the back corner of Houston's end zone, but Hollister got just one foot in-bounds -- yet he wished he could have done more to spark the Patriots offense quickly.

"I think I'm throwing the ball good," he said. "I don't think that's the issue. I think it's more so just my eyes and the timing of everything. I don't think it's throwing -- actually throwing. I think it's the mechanics of playing the game."

There was some good to be taken from Brissett's brief outing. After taking over possession with less than two minutes left, he helped the Patriots get deep into Texans territory with completions to Lucien, Sam Cotton and a third-down strike to DJ Foster. He also avoided a near sack, getting out of bounds to stop the clock, and he wisely spiked the football into the turf when he realized Houston had figured out another screen was coming.

Brissett looked back on where the third-team offense was at the start of camp -- with players like receivers Tony Washington and KJ Maye having just been added to the roster -- and pointed out that he felt they were significantly ahead of where they were then.

"I think we've gotten a lot better," Brissett said. "Just this two-minute drive is a good example. Last week we didn't make it past, what, the 40-yard line [against Jacksonville]? This week we're in the red zone with a chance to win the game. I think a lot of our young guys are stepping up and making plays and we're getting a little continuity together."

As for Brissett himself? The 2016 third-round pick has been the subject of some media speculation as to whether or not his spot on the 53-man roster is safe. After seeing some inconsistency in his play during camp practices and last week's game against the Jaguars, there were those who wondered if he was progressing at a rate that would help him survive this year's cutdown date. 

Asked to give a self-evaluation after the Texans game, Brissett said, "I definitely want to do more and play better, but there are good things getting done, good learning experiences. Moving in the right direction . . . 

"I feel like I'm still getting better. I think I'm doing good things. I mean, this league is hard. You just continue to work on things and continue to get better. Yeah, [tonight] the end result is a loss, but there were some good things we did out there. Some things it's good to get on film and learn from. It's a learning experience. That's what this is right now."

Whether the coaching staff sees the improvement Brissett described is unclear. 

"We've all got a long way to go," Belichick said following Saturday's game when asked about Brissett's progress. "I don't think anybody's where we need to be. Any player. Any coach. Any anybody . . . Just grinding it out. It's going to take a while."

Brissett insisted that coaches have been just as tight-lipped behind the scenes when it comes to how they've seen him grow summer. 

"I don't know what they think," Brissett said with a smile. "They don't tell me . . . I'm putting my best foot forward. It's up to them if they think I've been getting better or not."