Patriots Prepared For PUP Listings

Dont’a Hightower and Alan Branch were two key components to the New England Patriots top-ranked scoring defense and Super Bowl LI championship during the 2016 NFL season. Both those players are going to start Patriots Training Camp on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list – something that would cause concern for most teams and fan bases. Not in New England, however.

Thanks to a terrific offseason, Bill Belichick and the Patriots are uniquely prepared with depth to withstand possible PUP trips for both positions. Veteran offseason additions Lawrence Guy and David Harris not only soften the blow of these players missing part or all of Training Camp – they would be more than capable of filling the role if either player was to start the season on PUP without causing much drop off to the Patriots defense.

The Patriots added Harris after he spent 10 seasons with the rival New York Jets – a team that unceremoniously released him long after free agency started. This allowed New England to swoop in and sign the veteran linebacker on June 22, providing quality depth at a linebacker position that was considered pretty thin throughout the offseason. The 33-year old Harris has six of his 10 seasons with 100-plus tackles, and has been known as an extremely smart linebacker that called the Jets defense throughout his stint in New York. While he is not the same player he was early in his career, his ability to call the defense and be a stopper on run downs would soften the blow if Hightower was forced to miss the mandatory six weeks for starting the season on PUP.

Harris would not bring the same play making ability as Hightower, but his understanding of the game would help align players such as Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and others in the complex Belichick and Matt Patricia defense.

Along the defensive line, the Patriots added veteran Lawrence Guy via free agency on M<arch 13 – a signing that has largely flown under the radar but could be very important if Branch is forced to start the season on PUP.

Guy has largely been a rotational player throughout his career in Baltimore, but has proven to be a versatile defender who can play inside or out as a run stuffer and a situational pass rusher. His addition would keep a veteran presence on the defensive line in Branch’s potential absence while allowing Malcom Brown and Vincent Valentine to fill the run-stuffing role that would be left behind by Branch.

While neither Guy or Harris would be a one-to-one replacement of players to the caliber of Hightower and Branch, their presence and quality depth would allow Bill Belichick to mix and match much more easily and sustain defensive success if either player is forced to start the season on PUP – leaving the Patriots one step ahead yet again.