(This is the final entry into the ‘positional breakdown’ feature on Musket Fire)
Under Contract for 2013: Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, Vince Wilfork, Justin Francis, Jermaine Cunningham, Jake Bequette, Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick, Marcus Forston, Armond Armstead, Jason Vega
I will be breaking down this position into two parts (Defensive Tackle, and Defensive End) because of how many players are currently on the Patriots roster.
Defensive Tackles: (Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick, Marcus Forston, Armond Armstead)
Defensive Tackle is one of the more interesting positions for the Pats going into 2013, on one hand they were terrific against the run as the Pats finished 9th in that category. However on the other hand, they really did not provide much of a pass rush at all outside of Vince Wilfork. One of the key components to winning a Super Bowl in today’s NFL is having a successful pass rush up the middle. We see it all the time with Tom Brady, the one thing that seems to slow him down is pressure in his face, and that is something I think the Patriots need to work on for next season.
We all know how great Vince Wilfork is, he is maybe the best player at his position in the NFL today, he is a great run stuffer and he is the one guy on the Patriots that has the ability to push the pocket in the passing game. Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick are very similar in my eyes. They are both good at plugging up holes in the running game, but they do not bring much at all to the pass rush. Kyle Love is a much bigger guy as well, which helps tremendously in the run game, and I think he should be playing over Deaderick on first and second downs in 2013. Armond Armstead I think could be the steal of the year for the Pats, they signed him from the CFL and there is very little risk in this signing. There was some talk that Armstead has 2nd round pick talent and the Patriots got him for next to nothing. I think that he could bring a much needed pass rush from the inside in 2013, and that would help the Patriots defense tremendously.
Defensive End: (Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Justin Francis, Jermaine Cunningham, Jake Bequette, Jason Vega)
In my opinion defensive end is one of the deepest and talented positions on the Patriots roster. They have Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones starting on the ends, and both of them can put pressure on the quarterback, I think Jones could possibly be a top 5 pass rusher in the NFL, in a few years. He has all the tools needed, and as long as he stays healthy I see no reason why he could get there. It seems like all Rob Ninkovich does is make clutch plays when the Pats need them most. I think Ninkovich is one of the most important players on the Patriots team, and is very underrated in the NFL. When you talk about the Patriots you talk about the offense and Tom Brady and the two tight ends, but I really feel that Ninkovich should be mentioned as well. ‘Nink’ shows up to every game and makes the big plays, and I think that is one of the most important traits to have when playing in the NFL. Justin Francis and Jermaine Cunningham back Jones and Ninkovich up, and I think they are great backups that can step in and rush the passer when needed. Francis has a great motor and Cunningham showed great potential before his suspension. I really think that if you give this group an offseason to continue to work, they will be very good in 2013, and one of the strengths of the Patriots roster.
The Patriots have a very solid group on the line in terms of pass rush off of the edge, and run defense in the middle. The only major need I see for these positions is a defensive tackle that can push the pocket and bring some pressure on the quarterback. If they go out and get a guy like this, then I believe that the Patriots defense could possibly be suited to make a run at the Super Bowl in 2013.