The only player missing from the New England Patriots first practice of the week yesterday was undrafted rookie defensive end Justin Francis, and it was a surprise inactive. He has not been suffering from any known injuries, and he was incredible in the Patriots bye-clinching season finale against the Miami Dolphins. Francis had the breakout game of his career with three sacks while stepping in for the injured Rob Ninkovich.
This piece is going to carry the theme of defensive ends and defensive lineman. Ninkovich was available at practice and is a lock to play against the Houston Texans, and one would guess that the same could be said for Francis. He is emerging as a key situational pass rusher in certain roles, and he raised his stock before the breakout game by generating consistent pressure in the absence of top sub-package rusher Jermaine Cunningham.
The Patriots decided to work out former USC Trojans star defensive lineman Armond Amstead, who was also an All-Star in the CFL. He has plenty of talent as an interior pass rusher, and I just want to note that there is no way Armstead’s work out and Francis’s absence in practice are related at all. Francis is most likely not injured, and Armstead isn’t even allowed to sign with the team until after the postseason. This is a work out for the future and one that could net them a high-reward DL who can really bring the heat on the quarterback.
This guy is a potential steal as a project player for the Patriots, and I like this decision a lot.
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