Patriots Training Camp Preview, Part 7

Welcome to part 6 of our Patriots Training Camp Preview! If you missed parts 1, 2, 3, 45 or 6 click the number to check them out!

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Defensive End in Bill Belichick’s defense maybe the most misunderstood position on the field both by players and fans alike. The reason is twofold and both of those answers are pretty easy when you really think about it. Reason 1: The best Defensive End/Outside LineBacker Belichick ever coached was the otherworldly Lawrence Taylor. But Belichick even admits, he didn’t coach Taylor, so much as coach around Taylor to cover whatever his decisions may have left vulnerable. Which leads us to reason 2: I think this really allowed Belichick to develop, in his mind’s eye, a way that the DE/OLB position could function as a read and react position instead of having simply 2 potential responsibilities, rush the passer or set the edge. While the DE/OLB’s in Belichick’s defense do set the edge and rush the passer they also drop into zone coverage and even end up in man coverage in certain packages.

The Patriots defense relies heavily on read and react, if this happens, than I go here. While this is true that almost all NFL interior linebackers and defensive backs read the offense, extending that to defensive ends had been fairly unique until, as is the copycat NFL, everyone else started doing it.

This group of defensive ends probably should have been included with the defensive lineman yesterday just for space reasons, but I do truly believe that it is a totally different breed. Does Belichick like guys that can do both? Sure, but you aren’t going to see Rob Ninkovich lining up on a guard or center too often for the Pats. So separate lists!

# NAME AGE SEASONS COLLEGE
50 Ninkovich, Rob 32 11 Purdue
95 Long, Chris 31 9 Virginia
93 Sheard, Jabaal 27 6 Pittsburgh
72 Kearse, Frank 27 5 Alabama A&M

Rob Ninkovich arrived in 2009 and sort of out of nowhere made an immediate impact. A guy that couldn’t find a home with the Saints has certainly found one here and has been the exact type of versatile guy I talk about in the open. DE/OLB, nose for the football, tends to show up in big moments, rarely if ever out of place.

I think Chris Long has the physical tools and football IQ to make a nice addition to the Patriots DE corps, if he is healthy. HE has struggled to stay on the field, but was relied so heavily on during his Rams days that he couldn’t come off the field. I think he can be used situationally to help keep the injury bug at bay and should be able to flourish with loads of defensive talent around him.

I talked about Sheard yesterday as he will see time at both DL and DE/OLB. He has the foot speed and the moves to be a great situational pass rusher and the size to hold his own in side to stop the run on 3rd down draws. Another perfect Belichick defender.

Frank Kearse is a journeyman DE who could be a nice depth add for the Pats. A roster spot certainly isn’t guaranteed, but if he is special teams capable he could find a home here in NE.

Starter: Rob Ninkovich
Rotation: Chris Long, Jabaal Sheard
In Case of Emergency: Frank Kearse

Here is the compilation of my roster guess through today:

QB 4 RB 5 WR 6
Tom Brady Legarrette Blount Julain Edelman
Jimmy Garrapolo Donald Brown Danny Amendola
Jacoby Brissett Dion Lewis Chris Hogan
Unsigned Veteran James White Nate Washington
Brandon Bolden Malcolm Mitchell
Matthew Slater
TE 4 OL 8
Rob Gronkowski Nate Solder
Martellus Bennett Sebastian Vollmer
Clay Harbor David Andrews
A.J. Derby Shaq Mason
Bryan Stork
Adrian Waddle
Tre Jackson
Cameron Fleming
DL 8 DE 3
Branch, Alan Ninkovich, Rob
Brown, Malcom Long, Chris
Knighton, Terrance Kearse, Frank
Sheard, Jabaal
Flowers, Trey
Valentine, Vincent
Johnson, Anthony
Kuhn, Markus
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