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A closer look at Shaun Ellis and his impact

08.07.11 at 12:11 pm ET
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Suddenly, Vince Wilfork isn’€™t one of the biggest guys on New England’€™s defensive front anymore.

Pending a physical, the Patriots will apparently add 34-year-old Shaun Ellis to their defensive line in 2011. If the 6-foot-5, 290-pounder has anything left in the tank after 11 seasons with the Jets, it will add serious depth to New England’€™s run and pass defense, likely from the end position either in a 3-4 or 4-3 ‘€” both of which appear to be options for the Patriots in 2011.

While Ellis has fit neatly into both schemes over the course of his career, his work as an end in the 4-3 would give New England a four-man defensive front of Ellis, as well as Wilfork (6-foot-2, 325 pounds) and Albert Haynesworth (6-foot-6, 335 pounds), a massive defensive front that would be difficult to run against. (His versatility also provides some insurance if Haynesworth does break down physically.)

In addition, Ellis has shown an ability to generate some pass rush over the course of his career. He’€™s not the sort to generate double-digits sacks anymore, but his 72.5 sacks over the course of his career (including 4.5 last season) suggest the sort of player who can get after the quarterback on a fairly consistent basis ‘€” he’€™s had at least 4.5 sacks every year since 2005. (However, at least right now, newly-acquired Mark Anderson is still likely the best bet to serve as a defensive end on passing downs.)

The loss of Ellis hurts the Jets on the field and in the locker room, where he was one of the more respected leaders on a team full of veterans. The longest-tenured member of the team, he completely crushed the Patriots in last year’€™s playoff meeting between the two teams, recording two sacks in the first quarter and setting the tone for New York’€™s victory at Gillette Stadium. In addition, it figures that Ellis will have an ax to grind with his old team, which could add some zest to an already spicy Jets-Patriots rivalry in 2011. And finally, there’€™s a neat symmetry at play here ‘€” in 2000, Ellis was the pick used by the Jets they received when Bill Belichick switched organizations.

When it comes to playing time going forward, New England has played a lot of four-man lines in camp this far, so the addition of Ellis means Jermaine Cunningham and Eric Moore would see a cut in time if the Patriots stay with a four-man front. The two have seen the majority of time at end in the four-man front throughout the early days of camp, and both have been a bit of a mixed bag.

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Bill Belichick, Eric Moore, Jermaine Cunningham
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