And to think, the unit should only improve once defensive linemen Albert Haynesworth and Shaun Ellis join in on the fun.
Defensive end Andre Carter added a new element off the edge, continuously spinning left tackle Donald Penn like a disco ball on his way to wreaking havoc for Tampa Bay's quarterbacks. After sitting out last week's game against the Jaguars, Carter came on strong at practice and displayed that prowess during Thursday night's 31-14 victory in Tampa.
"I felt like we had a little bit [of pressure]," Patriots coach Bill Belichick told reporters after the game. "It looked like we made a few plays."
Carter, Mark Anderson and Eric Moore provided most of the outside pressure, and they'll get more help from Jermaine Cunningham once he returns to the field from an undisclosed injury. Of course, they were also aided by the inside pressure from Vince Wilfork, Gerard Warren, Kyle Love and Myron Pryor, who will all eventually receive a boost from Haynesworth, Ellis, Mike Wright and Ron Brace.
The new defensive look also showcased some of Jerod Mayo's pass-rushing talents. Mayo blitzed once on each of the Bucs' first three possessions, and he was in on two sacks and forced an incompletion. While much has been made of the new-look defensive line, the Patriots' aggressive front should pave the way for Mayo — who only had 3.5 sacks in his first three seasons — to play with a little more freedom and make plays in the backfield.
"Jerod is a good player," Belichick said. "He really does everything pretty well. There aren't a lot of weak points in his game. He's worked hard on his blitzing, his man coverage, his tackling, his pass defense, run defense. He works hard at everything, and I'm happy for whatever success he has because he works as hard as anybody around."
Surely, it's just one snapshot in the preseason game, but the Bucs were a 10-win team last season, and they've got an up-and-coming quarterback who plays behind a pretty good offensive line. So it's a good sign for the Patriots that they were able to make a big impression as they progress through the process of figuring themselves out.
And of course, they'll continue to get better once Haynesworth, Ellis, Wright and the rest of the crew returns to health.
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