In the time leading up to the beginning of training camp, we will be bringing you previews for each New England Patriots positional group. Up next is the defensive tackles.
Defensive Tackles: (10)
With Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly (hopefully) back in the fold, the Pats look to be in good shape at this position for the 2014 season. There is plenty of solid depth, they have some young talent, and Wilfork, their veteran leader, should be back in the starting lineup come September.
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What I’ll be looking for in training camp from this bunch is simple. How do the veterans look like coming back from their injuries, and can Dominique Easley bring that explosive pass rush that we are all hoping he can put forth.
If Wilfork and Kelly are healthy, the run defense should be just fine for the Patriots in this upcoming season. Wilfork takes up two or three blockers nearly every play, which opens up plenty of space for his teammates to operate. Kelly has a bit of a different playing style, and while he can still take up blocks, he is at his best when pushing back offensive lineman, trying to disrupt the rhythm of the quarterback.
Hopefully these two will look healthy in a few weeks. They missed most of the 2013 season, and even though they are both getting up there in age, I think they have had an ample amount of time to recover, and potentially get right back into their groove before the season begins.
However if one, or both of them suffer another injury, or is not fully recovered from their past healthy mishaps, one of the younger guys will have to step up. Sealver Siliga is great in clogging up the middle and playing the run, while Chris Jones showed that he can provide a decent pass rush from that defensive tackle position. These two will be fighting for a roster spot over the next little while, and I expect them to continue their solid progress, and put on a good showing in camp.
And now we get to the rookie, Dominique Easley. All reports coming out of minicamp indicated that the rehab from his knee injury is going very well, and multiple reporters said that he looked great coming in and out of cuts back in June. But putting on the pads and playing some real football is a whole different ballgame.
Will Easley flash that explosiveness that made the Pats select him back in May?
I certainly hope so. If he indeed comes out firing in the 2014 season, this New England defense will be extremely scary. Not only do they have two quality ends in Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, but they will have a force from the inside in Easley, something they haven’t had for quite some time. If it weren’t for his knee injuries, experts say that Easley may have gone top 10, maybe even top five. That is how dominant he was at times in college.
Tom Brady himself has said that pressure in the face of the quarterback is worse than pressure from the edge, so if Easley can show that he will be able to bring that to Foxboro, we will be in for a good season.