Last night the New England Patriots used their first pick of this year’s draft to select defensive tackle Dominique Easley.
How does this help the Pats? I’m glad you asked.
In my opinion, New England’s offseason strategy up until now has been to load up on the defensive side of the ball. In free agency they signed Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, and now in the draft they have added talent to the front four. If there was a weakness on that side of the ball for the Pats, it was the defensive line. But now (assuming Easley will be healthy of course), I think that group is heading towards becoming a strength for the Patriots.
Tom Brady isn’t getting any younger, and while the Patriots haven’t taken the conventional approach towards “loading up”, they certainly have given Brady an ample defense (at least on paper).
Over the last couple of seasons, a common trend that has emerged is teams acquiring talent to not only rush the passer from the edge, but also from the inside. As Patriots fans know all too well, that is what kept Tom Brady and company from winning not one, but two Super Bowl against the Giants. Maybe that is why Bill Belichick wanted to get someone that could apply pressure from the inside for his own defense.
As of right now, this is how I view the Pats defensive line depth chart:
DE- Chandler Jones
DE- Rob Ninkovich
DT- Vince Wilfork
DT- Tommy Kelly/Dominique Easley
It is hard to predict where each player will be at in terms of health right now, but assuming Easley’s knee will be okay, I am going to slide him in as a starter, with Kelly right behind him. I think that combination could be deadly for the Pats, as keeping each guy fresh would make this defense even more lethal. Throw in Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga filling in as depth guys, and Belichick may have found his starting defensive line for 2014.