Breaking down the front seven

June, 7, 2012
6/07/12
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Let’s hit the refresh button on the Patriots’ front seven after the release of Markell Carter, and assess what remains.

We’ll lump the players into just defensive linemen and linebackers, as much remains to be see in regards to how the Patriots will operate defensively this season. (Players are listed alphabetically).

DEFENSIVE LINE

Jake Bequette: The third-round pick remains unsigned, but should be under contract soon. His college career suggests he’s a polished product, and could contribute versus the run and pass as a defensive end early.

Ron Brace: The former second-round pick is playing with something to prove this season, having had a minimal impact thus far as a Patriot. If he can hone his physical talents, he could contribute as an end (3-4) or tackle (4-3).

Jermaine Cunningham: Sort of a Jekyll and Hyde start to his career, will we see more of the promising rookie of 2010 or struggling sophomore of 2011 this season?

Brandon Deaderick: Deaderick became a positive contributor in 2011, and seems to be in the mix to see regular playing time again in 2012. More of a run stuffer than sack master.

Jonathan Fanene: Versatility is the key with Fanene, who we can expect to be used in a variety of ways in his first season with the Patriots. He should help the pass rush, too.

Marcus Forston: Undrafted out of Miami, Forston was a prized prep recruit who fell short on expectations in college. For his size (6-1, 301), he has good athletic ability.

Justin Francis: Another undrafted product who did it all on the line at Rutgers. Has a thick upper frame, and worked well against the run and pass in college.

Marcus Harrison: The veteran tackle showed as a rookie with Chicago that he can make an impact against the run.

Chandler Jones: The first-round pick was considered by some experts to be a work in progress, but the natural talents are there. Could he emerge as a pass-rushing threat from day one?

Kyle Love: Had his best year as a pro in 2011, and gives the Pats a steady, productive, and difficult to move tackle to partner with Vince Wilfork.

Myron Pryor: Pryor was solid as a rookie, but has had trouble staying on the field recently. He was not seen at the previous OTA, and may still be recovering from a shoulder injury that shelved him for most of 2011.

Trevor Scott: The veteran is a good athlete coming off of a down year in Oakland. Like Andre Carter a year ago, perhaps Scott will prove to be a shrewd veteran signing for Bill Belichick.

Alex Silvestro: The player called up the night before Super Bowl XLVI to the active roster has worked as a tight end during OTA’s, but may settle back into his defensive end role when Rob Gronkowski and Daniel Fells return to action.

Gerard Warren: Steady and reliable. Warren may not have much flash to his game, but he can do his job and stuff the run.

Vince Wilfork: The anchor to the Patriots defense. Wilfork flexed him immense value in 2011, but may see decreased snaps in 2012 with more talent surrounding him – something that could be good for him in order to preserve his energy.

LINEBACKERS

Bobby Carpenter: The former first-round pick and stud athlete has a chance to make an impact on special teams and as a coverage linebacker.

Dane Fletcher: A strong special teamer and part time inside ‘backer, Fletcher carved out a nice role on this team in 2011.

Dont’a Hightower: After quarterbacking the Alabama defense during his college career, it would come as little surprise to see Hightower make an early impact all over the defense in 2012.

Niko Koutovides: A reliable special teams player, who contributed in many of the core phases of the kicking game last season.

Aaron Lavarias: Stuck around in 2011 as a practice squad player, making the switch from defensive end to linebacker.

Jerod Mayo: The heart and soul of the linebacking core, the tackling machine Mayo does so much for his defense.

Rob Ninkovich: One to watch, as Ninkovich may end up aligning as a down lineman. Can rush the passer and play the run, and his rugged style is welcomed by Patriots fans.

Mike Rivera: A developmental player who has stuck around after being signed in 2011. Fits more as an outside linebacker.

Brandon Spikes: The glass-eating inside backer excelled in the playoffs in 2011, and will look to build off of that momentum this season.

Jeff Tarpinian: It looks as though Tarpinian is healed from a head injury that ended his 2011 season. Had a chance to contribute on special teams and defense as a rookie.

Tracy White: A solid special teamer who played some in sub defense too in 2011. Can help defend against the pass.
Field Yates has previous experience interning with the New England Patriots on both their coaching and scouting staffs. A graduate of Wesleyan University (CT), he is a regular contributor to ESPN Boston's Patriots coverage and ESPN Insider.

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