New England Patriots: 4 position battles to watch in camp

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 18: Danny Amendola
FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 18: Danny Amendola /
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PROVO, UT – SEPTEMBER 12: Quarterback Ryan Finley
PROVO, UT – SEPTEMBER 12: Quarterback Ryan Finley /


Trevor Bates, Brooks Ellis, Jonathan Freeny, Harvey Langi

Following the signing of David Harris, one linebacker spot remains open on New England’s roster. Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, and Shea McClellin join Harris as locks to make the roster, while Jonathan Freeny and undrafted rookie Harvey Langi duel for the sixth linebacker job.

In last Friday’s edition of ‘Patriots Digest‘, Freeny’s presence on New England’s roster bubble was addressed:

"“Freeny has started 11 games for the Patriots since signing with the team in 2015 but missed the latter half of last season with a shoulder injury. He’s recorded 60 total tackles, two forced fumbles, and one sack in two years with New England. Freeny will have all summer to make his case for a spot on the Patriots’ roster but he may be passed aside for younger players like Harvey Langi.”"

There are a number of factors hurting the linebacker’s odds at making the team in 2017. Elandon Roberts’ productive rookie season in Freeny’s absence may have provided New England with a long-term replacement behind Dont’a Hightower. Additionally, the Patriots gave Harvey Langi $115,000 guaranteed as an undrafted free agent signee, an indication of the team’s fondness for him.

Langi was named a ‘top performer’ in the 20 and 60-yard shuttles at the 2017 Combine. If he makes the team, his athleticism will help him contribute on special teams as a rookie. Following his signing with New England, Pro Football Focus’ Andrew Fleischer pointed out Langi’s effectiveness against the run:

"“Langi lined up for 274 snaps ion run defense, ending up with 29 tackles, 8 assisted tackles and 21 stops. That’s a stop for a defensive win (three yards or less) on 7.7 percent of his run snaps, sixth best out of 32 draft eligible 3-4 linebackers. These numbers against the run are nearly identical to linebacker T.J. Watt, who was drafted in the first round.”"

Projected winner: Harvey Langi

The Patriots won a Super Bowl without the oft-injured Jonathan Freeny, so he’s definitely not critical to the success on defense. Proper coaching and development will help Langi utilize his physical skills and reach his full potential.