The path to the Super Bowl is often won and lost in the trenches. That’s not just an expression, that’s a fact. Both the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots both have proven the above statement, but which team has the edge on the defensive line? Let’s take a look:
Patriots Defensive Line
DE Trey Flowers
Flowers is by far one of the most underrated talents on the Patriots and in the NFL. He is a guy that won’t overwhelm offensive linemen with his strength or speed but somehow is a playmaker. Flowers uses a methodical approach to the game. His technique is solid, with good hand placement and nose for the football that leads him to success. He earned 57 tackles and 7.5 sacks during the regular season.
DT Lawrence Guy
Guy was brought in to be the “guy” in the middle for the Patriots. He’s probably the next best defensive linemen due to him being a tackling machine. Guy particularly excels in rush defense. He recorded a career-high in tackles with 59, but finished with a disappointing one-sack season.
DT Malcom Brown
The Patriots’ expectations were high on Brown entering this season, but he hasn’t produced much of anything. Brown compiled only 19 tackles and no sacks while starting 14 games this season. His role is based on clogging holes at the line of scrimmage and nothing more than that.
DE Deatrich Wise Jr.
When the Patriots are establishing constant pressure it’s usually because Wise is dominating. The problem is that Wise isn’t consistent. The Patriots tend to switch him off, but start him on occasion depending on matchups and who’s playing at the highest level. He earned 30 tackles and 4.5 sacks during the regular season.
Most of the starters aren’t that impressive with the exception of Flowers, but there is a method to Bill Belichick’s madness. The bench is constantly subbing in and out of the game to keep fresh legs on the field, and evaluate the best player for the matchup. Adrian Clayborn is possibly the biggest disappointment on the team since he should be an every game starter. Still, he’s talented enough to do some damage if underestimated. Other players that are constantly rotated is Danny Shelton, Adam Butler and John Simon.
Rams Defensive Line
DE Michael Brockers
Brockers has been a reliable asset to the defense ever since being drafted if you exclude this year. He was uncharacteristically quiet this season, but recently turned things around. Brockers wasn’t the same dominant force Rams fans are used to seeing, but he’s still been an effective presence so far in the playoffs. Here’s hoping that he doesn’t revert to his unimpressive 54 tackle, one-sack season.
NT Ndamukong Suh
Many have caught on to Suh’s disappointing season. It’s overly exaggerated in many ways. That’s not to say that Suh didn’t have his struggles, but to say he played horrible throughout 2018 is inaccurate. Suh was inconsistent this season, but he remains a dangerous lineman if he’s at his best. He still registered 59 tackles and 4.5 sacks. The most interesting note is the best two games of the season came in the playoffs. Watch out Pats.
DT Aaron Donald
Do I need to continue? Donald’s name speaks for itself. It’s common knowledge that he’s the best defensive linemen in football and is an MVP candidate. Donald is the wisest investment of the offseason and proof of it is the 20.5-sack season. But hey, don’t take my word for it. Just ask the Oakland Raiders if investing in a pass-rusher is wise.
The three starters don’t see much substitution unless absolutely necessary. Rookie Jon Franklin-Myers will occasionally come in and make some noise. Other than that Ethan Westbrooks is about the only notable player that will get involved. Tanzel Smart and Sebastian Joseph-Day don’t usually see much of the field, but it’s hard when you have a guy like Donald playing nearly every down.
The overall edge goes in favor of the Rams. The Patriots defensive line isn’t one to underestimate, but still not that intimidating. Donald alone is enough to win the advantage. About the only thing intriguing about the Patriots defensive line is their deep bench. But, that’s needed because their starters are mostly underwhelming. One thing I will say is Donald and company will have their hands full against a talented Patriots offensive line.