Pryor making the most of his snaps

Steve Mitchell/US Presswire

Myron Pryor (91) registered a half sack while helping to bring down Chad Henne on Monday.FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In an offseason that saw the Patriots beef up their defensive line with a number of big-name additions like Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis, Andre Carter, and Mark Anderson, it might have been third-year defensive tackle Myron Pryor who made the biggest splash in Monday's season-opening triumph in Miami.

Pryor played less than 40 percent of the team's total snaps, but got credited with a team-high three quarterback hits, a half sack, and two tackles. But that doesn't quite sum up his impact. According to analytical site Pro Football Focus, which grades players based on overall performance, Pryor graded out as +4.2, which wasn't just tops on the Patriots, it was the second best grade among all defensive tackles in Week 1 (second only to Cleveland's Phil Taylor, but ahead of Baltimore's Haloti Ngata at +3.9, Oakland's Richard Seymour at +3.7, and Haynesworth at +3.5).

Pryor's efforts helped the Patriots -- often scolded for an anemic pass rush a season ago -- grade out as the top pass rushing defense in Week 1 with PFF assigning a +12 rating (only two other teams were +10 or better). By comparison, the Patriots graded out at -0.1 last season, seventh worst in the league.

For Pryor, there's a heightened comfort level with the system that's allowing him to thrive early this season.

"I think just being in the system for a little while, kind of helps slow everything down, it helps you understand much more," he said. "And just being in better shape this year, knowing the system, it's all second nature for me now. Everything moves so much smoother."

New England utilized a defensive rotation in Week 1, often mixing and matching the personnel around defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (line-high 57 snaps). Ellis (40), Carter (35), Anderson (34), Haynesworth (32), Pryor (28), and Love (25) all got quality time (with veteran Mike Wright leaving the game early due to a concussion).

"I think the rotations are great," said Pryor. "Guys go hard for 4-to-6 plays, they get gassed, and you can bring in two guys that can play just as good as them. That really helps out a lot; I'm real happy about that. You don’t feel like you have to be waving the flag because you’re dying out there."

The Patriots drafted Pryor in the sixth round (207th overall) in 2009. He appeared in 13 games as a rookie, totaling 23 tackles and a forced fumble. His sophomore campaign would be a bit more frustrating. After drawing a start on opening day against the Bengals and registering his first career sack on the game's first drive, he dropped back to a reserve role and his playing time diminished. Pryor then missed seven games due to injury late in the season.

Pryor was a late addition to the injury report last week, deemed questionable with a groin injury. It didn't detour him last week and he's been a full participant this week in practice. He hopes it stays that way.

"Every day I just pray and just keep doing what I gotta do -- the extra little things to keep my body right, aligned, and adjusted, so that nothing falls out of place on me," said Pryor. "All I can do is keep my head up, keep going strong, and don’t worry about the injuries."