If there is one overriding question on the Patriots’ roster at this time, it is the team’s pass rush, specifically generated from the outside linebacker spot on early downs.
In agreeing to a one-year contract with 10-year veteran Derrick Burgess on Friday morning -- as reported by ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter -- the Patriots add a veteran presence in this area should some younger options not pan out or develop as quickly as hoped.
Burgess played approximately 57 percent of the Patriots’ defensive snaps in 2009, in a variety of roles in the team's multiple system.
He was used as a nickel rusher early in the season. He later played some 3-4 outside linebacker. Against the Bills in December, he put his hand on the ground and played defensive end on early downs in a three-man front.
Although the overall results weren’t overwhelming and contributed to the current pass-rush questions, coach Bill Belichick seemed to like how Burgess adapted to the team’s system.
Burgess played all 16 games (6 starts), totaling 35 tackles, 5 sacks and 10 quarterback hits. Bigger results were expected by some since the Patriots surrendered third- and fifth-round draft choices to acquire him.
As for the Patriots' current depth chart at outside linebacker, Tully Banta-Cain appears to be one starter, but there is a question who will line up on the opposite side. Second-round draft choice Jermaine Cunningham of Florida, 2008 third-round draft choice Shawn Crable (0 career regular-season games) and five-year veterans Rob Ninkovich and Pierre Woods are also in the mix, although Ninkovich and Woods have been mostly special teams contributors to this point of their careers.