New England Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich is one of the biggest leaders on the team, and he has been busy praising fellow defensive linemen in Chandler Jones and Tommy Kelly. He recently tabbed Jones as a player headed for a big year (that’s what most of us believe too), and he lauded Jones’s length. It was even more interesting, though, to hear him praise incoming defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, though, largely because it’s more interesting to hear exactly how the new DT is doing.
A change of scenery from the penalty-prone Oakland Raiders to the more disciplined New England Patriots defense should do Tommy Kelly well, and he can be exactly the type of excellent pass rushing defensive tackle that this team needs. The Patriots made it their goal to revamp the interior of the defensive line by replacing plodding run defenders with pass rushers to better ease off the pressure on the secondary. The run defense is already perfectly fine at LB, DE, and even DB, and there’s always Vince Wilfork present to plug up the holes against the run. But the interior pass rush was missing and was a huge weakness for the Patriots last season, so both Tommy Kelly and Armond Armstead are more than welcome additions.
While Armstead is on the non-football injury list for something other than the heart issues he had in college at USC, Kelly has been busy impressing beat writers and teammates alike. Ninkovich had this to say to Pat Kirwan and Tim Ryan yesterday when asked who should be on the media’ radar in camp, “Tommy Kelly. When I saw Tommy Kelly and looked at him, I was like, ‘Man, you’re going to make me look small.’ He’s like 6-8, 300 pounds, and he can move. Him coming in, new surroundings, I think he’s kind of stepped in really well.”
Kelly reportedly played well at camp yesterday, and his frame is certainly imposing and absolutely extraordinary which helps him be such a force as a pass rusher. If Kelly is motivated, I believe he still “has it” and has not declined. Kelly is a player to keep a close eye on this season, because he could be a real force on the Patriots defensive line. Overall, I love the starters on the Pats defensive line, and each of them brings something different to the table. Chandler Jones is a two-way DE with the potential to be the next elite DE in this league, Vince Wilfork is one of the best run defenders going and eats up blockers, Tommy Kelly is an excellent pass rusher at his best who really disrupts offensive lines at the point of attack, and Rob Ninkovich is one of the best 4-3 DEs in the league with an uncanny ability to force fumbles at a high rate.