The New England Patriots have a great defensive tackle duo in place with Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, but the depth at the position is less than certain following the release of Marcus Forston. I’m sure the Patriots will sign somebody as a fourth defensive tackle behind Wilfork, Kelly, and Maryland UDFA Joe Vellano, and that man could very well be former New York Giants DT Marvin Austin. Armond Armstead won’t be on the NFI forever (the NFI is like the PUP, so Armstead will have to miss the first six games), so the Patriots should be getting a good pass rushing DT back at that time.
Signing Kelly was a huge move for the Patriots, and he had a strong preseason. Kelly has drawn praise from teammates, and he still has “it”. There was some worry coming into training camp that the Pats may have signed a declining pass rushing specialist at DT in Kelly, but he has proven thus far that he isn’t slowing down. The change of scenery has done Kelly well, and this is a guy who hasn’t been to the playoffs despite a very good individual career. That’s what happens when you play for the Oakland Raiders, and Kelly’s attitude seems to have shifted now that he is on the New England Patriots.
Per the Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian, Tommy Kelly’s focus is on making Bill Belichick happy with his play, “I’m encouraged. But until Bill is satisfied, I’m going to keep working. Until he’s happy with it, then I’ll be happy with it. Until then, I’m just trying to find my place.”
“But until Bill tells me what my place is, like I said, I’m just going to keep working. Around here . . . it’s strictly competitive. I like it that way because it keeps everyone on their toes. Ain’t nobody assured of nothing. It’s all good to me.”
The Patriots should have a terrific force at the heart of the defense with Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, and Wilfork’s ability to swallow up blockers and free up other players will have an enormous effect on Kelly. This is the perfect situation for Kelly to reinvigorate his career, and he already seems rejuvenated mentally. It wasn’t long ago when Kelly was easily one of the best defensive tackles at rushing the passer in this league, and he should be back to that level after a down 2012 season that was filled with penalties and inconsistency (there probably wasn’t much for him to play for, either). Another thing I’d like to note is the fact that having both Kelly and Wilfork on the inside at the same time could really help free up Brandon Spikes for some deadly inside blitzes.
Throughout the offseason, both Kelly and Wilfork have taken the time to praise eachother, and it seems like both players have established an excellent rapport. When you combine that with their abilities, that should make them all the more lethal. Here’s what Kelly said about Wilfork in the Herald article, “It’s wonderful. He makes it easier. He knows defense so good, to the point (where) if I’m hesitant about anything, I just look at him. He can tell me quickly so I understand. He’s not speaking coachspeak. He ain’t speaking how a linebacker talks. He’s talking how a defensive lineman talks. He can say one thing and I know exactly what he’s talking about. It’s good. I love it.”
There are a few players on the Patriots that I am especially excited about getting ready to watch, and Tommy Kelly is definitely one of those guys. He looks like the high-impact, pass rushing DT that this team clearly needed.