Welcome to the second edition of a new countdown-oriented player profile series we are spinning out here at Musket Fire. Yesterday, it was 99 days until the New England Patriots open 2015 so we took a gander at the owner of the No. 99 jersey, Dominique Easley. Because we are now 98 days away from Week 1, we’re going to profile No. 98, defensive lineman Antonio Johnson.
Of the three players the Patriots signed this past New Year’s Eve, Johnson is the eldest veteran. Before departing Tennessee with an injury settlement last season (he didn’t play a snap in the 2014 regular season), Johnson put together five years as a Colt and a sixth as a Titan.
2013 was Johnson’s best season. He played in all 16 games and recorded three sacks, two-thirds of his career total. But will Johnson be able to resuscitate his career in New England?
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At the very least, playing outside of the AFC South should be refreshing for the Mississippi State product. But Johnson is going to need more than just a new perspective on the NFL if he’s going to survive training camp.
The Patriots have an abundance of promising young talent at the defensive tackle position heading into the summer. Dominique Easley and Malcom Brown represent the future of the Patriot defense, and veterans Alan Branch, Sealver Siliga and Joe Vellano will help them get there. Undrafted rookie Vince Taylor will also figure into the camp competition.
Being one of only six thirty-something Patriots, it will be an uphill battle for Johnson to make the team. But if he can play like he did a few years ago and channel that veteran prowess into on-field results, Johnson could squeak on to the roster and keep his NFL career alive.
Tomorrow, join us here at Musket Fire as we mark 97 days until the 2015 opener by profiling No. 97, defensive tackle Alan Branch.