After the Patriots squeaked out a victory against the San Diego Chargers earlier this week, the familiar calls for upgrading the pass-rush hit Twitter, message boards, and the airwaves alike.
Chargers QB Philip Rivers certainly wouldn't have been able to carve up the Patriots secondary so quickly in the 4th quarter with another disruptive rush specialist.
Two of just those types of players were on display Saturday night when the Oklahoma Sooners were up-ended by the Missouri Tigers.
Oklahoma's hybrid DE/OLB Jeremy Beal considered leaving school early last year, when he probably would have been a 2nd pick. After working on his average speed and strength, he is back with a vengeance in 2010.
Beal projects as a strong outside linebacker, as his 6-foot-3, 265-pound frame isn't built to play defensive end in the NFL. His incredibly high motor certainly lends himself well to the 3-4 OLB position.
He has played with his hand up at times, dropping into coverage on rare occasions, but would still have a learning curve like Jermaine Cunningham in picking up nearly a brand new position.
Although Beal would need to continue to add functional strength, he has the physical ability to turn into a disruptive force not seen since Willie McGinest donned a Patriots uniform.
Against Missouri, Beal was an absolute force. He racked up 4 tackles for loss, giving him 12.5 TFL and 6 sacks halfway through the season.
We have Beal as one of the two 1st round picks for the Patriots in our 2011 NFL Mock Draft - look for the Sooner standout to impress at the Senior Bowl this January.
In addition to Beal, the Tigers' Aldon Smith was also a target of ours. Only being a redshirt sophomore, Smith definitely has a lot of room to grow and improve his already impressive skill-set.
Smith has been hampered with leg injuries this year, only playing in parts of four games this year. When healthy though, Smith has accumulated 17 tackles, including 4 TFL and 3 sacks.
At first glance, Smith jumps off the screen and screams top 10 pick. His seemingly 8-foot arms seem to rip and swim right through linemen and his rush effort never seems to diminish as the game goes on.
That said, there are some glaring weaknesses in Smith's game.
While he doesn't abandon his run stopping duties per se, he just isn't that good at them. He needs to add some bulk and strength in order to be able to set the edge as a 3-4 OLB at the next level - think Tully Banta-Cain right now as a starting point.
Like Beal at Oklahoma, Smith has played with his hand up on occasion. His coverage skills are basically unknown - save for his interception during the Oklahoma game that really opened things up for the Tigers.
Smith and Beal, while very intriguing, do have lots to improve on. Like most college rushers, they have come a long way based on their athleticism and have developed one or two rush moves. Each will have to add strength while diversifying their rush repertoire if they want to be successful at the next level.
James Christensen's scouting updates will appear here on PatriotsInsider.com throughout the year. James is the publisher of NEPatriotsDraft.com, an independent website dedicated to covering the NFL Draft and college prospects with professional potential.