Thursday, August 11, 2011

Shaun Ellis Reminds Us of Why We Love Football

A lot of stories have been written about Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth since the Patriots traded for both of them from the depths of the NFL.  Hell, the signing of an offensive lineman who doesn't even protect Tom Brady’s blindside has been getting a lot of attention lately in Patriots Camp.  The wonders of the post lockout football.  But one story that hasn’t been written enough, and could become the biggest story of the New England Patriots 2011 (and hopefully 2012) season, is the signing of Defensive Lineman Shaun Ellis away from the Jets.

Ellis, interestingly enough, one of the Jets’ draft pick received from the Bill Belichick “trade” to the Patriots in 2000, has been a dominant defensive end lineman for over a decade now, anchoring the Jets 3-4 Defensive Line that featured stalwart-less Sione Pouha, Mike DeVito and Marques Douglas over the last couple of years.  And while he achieved much of his success in the middle of the last decade, he will be lining up with all-pro caliber players such as Vince Wilfork and (laughably, I know) Haynesworth.  His sack total could reach 10 for the first time in several years and just the possibility of this havoc gives the Patriots some much needed quarterbacking pressure.  And no more games like the 2 sack performance against the Patriots in the 2011 playoffs.

Imagining this as Mark Sanchez...ha!
Why did Ellis do it?  When questioned about his move to New England, after 11 years with the Jets, one could tell that he was bitter about the circumstances that led to his termination with the Jets.  He was offered a veteran minimum contract by the Jets, which in this day and age means that the Jets just didn’t want him anymore.  Looking for a better deal elsewhere led to his signing with the Patriots and its offer of four million dollars plus incentives.  Ellis described the signing as just being about business, but you know and I know that everyone on the Jets' defense were brainwashed into thinking that the Patriots in general and Tom Brady in particular was the Devil.  Just ask Bart Scott.  Ellis' signing was purely personal against Rex Reed and the Jets and could lead to some interesting pre and post-game meet-ups. Even Rex couldn't wish his veteran lineman luck.

Why did Belichick do it?  My paranoid side believes that the Ellis signing was to first obtain information on the Jets defense, which stuck it to the Patriots last year in the playoffs, and second to force the Jets to spend resources changing their defensive playbook in response to the Patriots gaining this information. The non-controversial, football argument is sound, however.  The Patriots have been lacking big men to pressure the Quarterback for a while and needed to shore up the defensive line that was relying too heavily on Wilfork.  Ellis will be good for 6-8 sacks, 1 or 2 forced or recovered fumbles and 45 tackles.  More importantly, he will draw attention away from other rushers.  It seems pretty clear that the Patriots are going to go primarily 4-3 with Wilfork, Ellis Haynesworth and Mike Wright on the line with Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon Spikes and Jerrod (don’t call me O.J.) Mayo at linebacker.

In the end, Ellis could be the most important pick up the Patriots make all year.  If Mike Wright stays healthy, the Patriots suddenly have linemen who can rush the passer.  An effective pass-rush will take some pressure off of the Patriots' young secondary.  And Ellis brings the F-you mentality that both Belichick and Rex Ryan loves onto the other side of the ball.  And don’t discount how important that mental edge is to a manipulator like Bill Belichick. 

The long and short of it?  I can’t wait for October 9, 2011.

photograph courtesy of

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