In light of defensive end Andre Carter's quad injury, which will likely require surgery, the Patriots will rely upon Mark Anderson to fill the pass-rushing void, and he got off to a strong start Sunday against the Broncos.
Anderson, a defensive end by trade, has shifted more to an outside linebacker role in recent weeks, and that's where the majority of his reps came in Denver. Anderson played 33 of the Patriots' 40 defensive snaps, including plays negated by penalties, after Carter's injury, and he lined up as an outside linebacker 25 times.
Anderson made some serious contributions during his 33 snaps, based on the film review. The Broncos had 20 designed passing plays (three of which turned into runs by quarterback Tim Tebow) during those 33 snaps. Anderson rushed the passer 18 times and contained against a possible run twice.
Of his 18 rushes, he beat his man nine times (beating the left tackle five times, the right tackle twice, the tight end once and one other time when he was lined up over the left tackle and stunted inside to record a sack) and pressured Tebow three times, including two sacks.
The most impressive part about Anderson's performance was his motor. He relentlessly tried to defeat his block, though he was visibly gassed later in the game.
Anderson also lined up at left defensive end in a three-man front, and he was double-teamed by the right guard and right tackle on each play. Even though he didn't generate any pressure, it was beneficial to consume a double team in that situation. Anderson was defeated by a single blocker on seven of his 18 pass rushes.
Anderson's weakness has been his run defense, which has been the reason why he hasn't been on the field for all three downs, despite the fact that he's got nine sacks. It's also likely the reason why Anderson has made the shift outside to the rush-linebacker position.
As such, he wasn't much of a factor against the run, and the Broncos surprisingly never tried to run straight at him. Anderson was on the field for 13 designed running plays, and he was a non-factor 11 times (by non-factor, Anderson had almost no chance to make the tackle because the play was run away from him). Of the two plays that Anderson had a chance to make, he forced a fumble and was blocked out of the hole. Again, his efficiency rating was high, but the sample size was miniscule.
Anderson almost certainly won't fill Carter's role as an every-down defensive end, but if he continues to play with the motor he displayed in Denver, he'll definitely be a factor while rushing the passer.
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