Patriots kick tires on pass rushers


Last night, the Patriots sat down with South Carolina edge rusher Eric Norwood. Tonight, they’ll do the same with Michigan pressure man Brandon Graham.

What does it mean? Well, it’s still really early, and the Patriots will be meeting with plenty of guys over the course of these few days in Mobile, Ala. But it would seem to confirm what we all are well aware of … Finding edge players is the priority this offseason.

Derrick Burgess and Tully Banta-Cain are free agents. As for Adalius Thomas, I’m told that the player and team haven’t communicated at all since season’s end, and while the Patriots could well try to trade him or hang on to his rights and wait,  there’s a pretty good chance that the end for this relationship is in sight.

In other words, a total overhaul could be coming at outside linebacker.

The good news is that this draft is full of the rush linebacker types. Norwood, the SEC’s all-time sack leader, said his meeting with the team went swimmingly.

“It was a lot of board work, but I know my stuff,” Norwood said. “I left thinking it was a good meeting, and I think I’d fit great in there, the type of team they have, type of structure they have. Their players don’t have an ego, I don’t have an ego. I think I’d fit in perfect.”

Norwood seemed fairly certain he’d be a linebacker in any defense, although he expects to be down in nickel and dime fronts — “I want to be rushing on third down, on passing downs.”

Graham, on the other hand, thinks his pro position in up in the air. But if he does wind up being a 3-4 outside linebacker, he’s got a ready-made role model in an old college teammate of his.

“I look at Lamarr Woodley every time,” Graham told me. “If Pittsburgh picked me up, I’d have a little edge because I talk to Woodley every day. I ask him all the time what he does work out and prepare for what he has do. He’s told me to work on my drops, work on my hips, it’s all about being able to open your hips when you cover guys.”


Another couple rushers to keep in mind from here — Troy’s Cameron Sheffield and Brandon Lang. The two are hoping to be the next in line from the Alabama school, following Osi Umenyiora and DeMarcus Ware.

Sheffield, in fact, says that hearing on TV that Ware’s from Troy is the reason he went there. Umenyiora’s rep doesn’t hurt the two, either.

“I talked to DeMarcus right before they played Minnesota, and just wished him good luck, and talk to Osi here and there,” Lang said. “They do a good job of coming back and talking to the players. … They made a name for themselves, just like we’re trying to do. They’re great guys great people off the field and they work very hard, and they set an example and standard.”

Those guys aren’t slated to meet with New England quite yet.

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