Closer look at Pats' linebacker corps

June, 4, 2014
Jun 4
6:05
PM ET
With Wednesday's signing of veteran James Anderson, the New England Patriots add depth and a coverage element that could provide a much-needed boost. As colleague Field Yates noted in Monday's "pass or sign" blog entry, Anderson had some value to the team.

"Many of the players still available to sign have an injury red flag or are coming off of a poor 2013 season. That's not the case with Anderson, a 30-year old that just racked up 100 tackles for the Bears last season," Yates wrote. "This isn't to suggest that he's a standout that would challenge for immediate starting duties, but given the depth concerns at linebacker, Anderson -- who has the range and instincts to defend the pass -- makes sense. He was recently in for a visit, so the Patriots have already begun doing their homework on him."

Let's break down the top of the Patriots' linebacker corps through the lens of the 4-3 defense and also the sub:

MLB: Dont'a Hightower/Steve Beauharnais
WLB: Jerod Mayo/James Anderson
SLB: Jamie Collins/Rob Ninkovich (starting DE)

We can lock Mayo into a role in the sub defense in every game-plan, while every other player on the depth chart could factor into sub depending on the specific plan of the week. Each of the players also has some position flexibility to move around in the base.

This personnel snapshot doesn't factor in more special teams types such as Chris White, Ja'Gared Davis and Josh Hull. Rookie free agents Cameron Gordon, Deontae Skinner and Taylor McCuller are also on the depth chart, while third-year player Darius Fleming (recently signed from San Francisco) could factor into the linebacker mix based on his position flexibility (DE/OLB) coming out of Notre Dame.

Specific to Anderson, some might have felt that he wore down in the second half of recent seasons, but the Patriots are probably projecting that a limited workload compared to what he's had could alleviate that potential concern.

Without knowing the specifics of the contract, the signing seems like a smart one for the Patriots as Anderson fills out one of the few areas on the roster that required a depth charge.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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