Another position that was absolutely slammed with injuries last season was the defensive tackle position of the New England Patriots. Since the Patriots run a 4-3 defense, a lot of emphasis is on the defensive tackle to stop the run.
A torn ACL last season to 5-time Pro Bowler, Vince Wilfork, didn’t stop the defensive tackles from having a pretty good season as Joe Velanno and Chris Jones were able to step up their role and play fairly well, well good enough to get the Patriots to the playoffs. Questions were swirling during the off season if big Vince Wilfork was going to return to anchor the position. Primed and ready, I think this year’s core of DT’s are ready to have a big season. Let’s dive into the Patriots defensive tackle depth heading into the 2014 season.
LDT) Vince Wilfork
Teams tend to run to the left the most so that explains why Wilfork is set up on the left side. Wilfork without a doubt is the Patriots best player on the defensive line level to their defense and him being on the field and healthy is huge.
Last season, while Wilfork missed most of it after suffering a torn ACL against Atlanta, teams were able to take advantage of the Patriots up front and run, run and run. Wilfork’s return this season is huge.
Wilfork was released over the off season after he demanded that his pay was not cut but the Patriots were able to work out a deal with Vince to keep him in New England at a cost that they can still build a contending team.
My 2014 Vince Wilfork Projection:
50(up 41) combined tackles, 5.5(up 5.5) sacks, 2(up 2) forced fumbles and 2(up 2) fumble recoveries
Note: He will also be a Pro-Bowler
RDT) Tommy Kelly
Kelly also last year was hobbled by injuries. He looked very good in the first part of the year and Patriots fans were a little bit more optimistic that they would be fine without Wilfork knowing that they had Kelly. But Kelly hit the injured reserve with a knee injury which really thinned the Patriots defense even more.
My 2014 Tommy Kelly Projection:
39(up 17) combined tackles, 2(down 0.5) sacks, 1(up 1) forced fumble and 0(down 1) fumble recoveries
3) Chris Jones
Jones showed he was more than capable of stepping into a big time role on this Patriots defense. Jones had a very good season recording 54 tackles and sacks. The thing that is impressive about that is going into the year Jones had no clue if he was going to make the team never mind play a huge role for playoff making Patriots. With the Patriots not knowing if Wilfork will be able to be an everyday player, Jones will have a big role again this year.
My 2014 Chris Jones Projection:
14 games, 35(down 19) combined tackles, 2.5(down 3.5) sacks, 0(-) forced fumbles and 0(-) fumble recoveries
4) Joe Vellano
For what he was thought to be, just an extra player, Vellano had a very good season stepping into a big role for the Patriots last season. Vellano showed the ability to stop the run and get after the quarterback.
My 2014 Joe Vellano Projection:
14 games, 29(down 25) combined tackles, 2.0(-) sacks, 0(-) forced fumbles and 0(down 1) fumble recoveries
Defensive tackles on current roster who need to fight for their spot:
Patriots DE Depth Chart Grade and Reason: A
It’s tough to e perfect at a position but I believe the Patriots are perfect at defensive tackle. While the Patriots are getting back their 5-time Pro-Bowl defensive tackle in Vince Wilfork they are also getting back Tommy Kelly who is no slouch himself. The backups at this position last year, Jones and Vellano proved they can play together and are able to rush the passer. If needed Dominique Easley is there to provide backup but the Patriots would like to ease the rookie into the lineup in blowouts. If the Patriots carry five defensive tackles again, look for Siliga’s job to be safe.