1) Chandler Jones
2) Rob Ninkovich
3) Jermaine Cunningham
4) Jake Bequette
5) Justin Francis
6) Trevor Scott
Last year, the Patriots had two players with double-digit sacks in Andre Carter and Mark Anderson, both recording 10 sacks. However, it is likely that neither will be back to New England. Carter sustained a quad injury late in the season, and he is still recovering from surgery, and Anderson signed in free agency with the new-look Buffalo Bills.
Chandler Jones was drafted in the first round with the 21st pick. It appeared as though the Pats would try to nurture Jones and let him loose in his second year. But it now looks like Jones is ready to go. He has looked very impressive at training camp and was the talk of the town in his NFL debut in the preseason.
He got great pressure on a Pro Bowl tackle Jermon Bushrod, and he utilized his physical tools very well. The coaching staff is comfortable with him starting and going all out in his rookie year.
Rob Ninkovich played the bulk of last year at outside linebacker, but he has been playing through training camp at defensive end. He will likely be playing there more often and could end up being a formidable pass-rusher.
Jermaine Cunningham had a nice rookie season, recording 34 tackles and one sack in 15 games. However, he took a huge step back in 2011, making only one tackle in nine games. Nonetheless, he has shown some potential in camp, which will eventually be enough to allow him to stay aboard as one of the last players to make the final cut.
Jake Bequette was taken in the third round of the draft this year as a pass-rusher, but he hasn't done much to stand out in training camp. He'll make the team, but he must do a lot more to move up the depth chart.
Justin Francis, an undrafted free agent rookie, has been another one of the surprises in camp. He has shown great energy and has impressed the coaching staff. He'll make the team, but he needs to still show a little more to get good playing time.
Trevor Scott, a free agent signed this year, will be the last name to make the list. He hasn't done too much in camp, but he made some nice plays in the game Thursday. The Patriots will try to go in a more youthful direction with the five players previously mentioned, but they will keep Scott on the roster for experience.