Why Shaun Ellis Is a Perfect Fit for New England Patriots

Tony SantorsaSenior Writer IIAugust 9, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 08:  Defensive end Shaun Ellis #92 of the New York Jets rushes the passer against Bobby Eldridge #81 of the Indianapolis Colts during their 2011 AFC wild card playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 8, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Jets won 17-16. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Bill Belichick and the Patriots did what they do best this weekend: they went out and grabbed a free agent that once was a thorn in their side, former New York Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis

Ellis spent his entire 11-year career as a Jet and now at 34 years old, he is now a New England Patriot and is a perfect fit in Belichick's unique defense. 

So far throughout New England's training, the team has been spotted running a lot more 4-3 defensive alignments rather than their traditional base 3-4 defense—this not a change in philosophy, but simply adding more variances to a veteran defensive group with a mix of young, talented and athletic players. 

Belichick was actually questioned about the teams possible change of philosophy in his morning press conference this past Monday, but he rejected the add of changing defensive scheme or philosophy:

I don't think our defensive philosophy is going to change. I think how we align and how we handle the responsibilities, I think that could definitely change by game plan or by what we feel are our strengths and weaknesses and how to best deploy the players.

I don't think fundamentally our philosophy and our techniques are going to change. I think what we're teaching we're going to continue to teach and use on a very consistent basis. How, strategically, we want to move guys around and put them in certain alignments or how to configure them relative to certain to formations and tie it in with coverages and things like that - I think there's flexibility there.

So, how does this make Ellis a perfect fit in New England's defense? Because he is versatile enough to excel in a three-man front as well as a four-man front. 

In fact, in an article posted on ESPN Boston, Patriots former defensive coordinator Eric Mangini discussed how Ellis will succeed as a Patriot:

"That's where he played in Rex's system [Almost a 4-3 defensive end with the Jets]. Rex runs a 3-4 but with 4-3 spacing. That's what Baltimore does, what Pittsburgh does, it's 3-4 personnel but set up like a 4-3. That's another reason Shaun makes sense. He has a comfort level with that. He's a unique guy. You can do some creative stuff with him that you couldn't do with a lot of defensive ends."

Hopefully Mangini is right and that Belichick can start getting creative with Ellis and his defensive fronts in 2011. The Patriots ran their base 3-4 defense about 40 percent of the time last year, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston, and could certainly use a little bit more variances this year as Belichick mixes in a four-man front. 

Ellis may be listed on New England's Physically Unable to Perform List (PUP), but should be ready by the first week of the regular season.

New England will kickoff their preseason this Thursday against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium.

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