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Monday, April 8, 2013
Kelly, interior rush & Wilfork's snaps

By Mike Reiss

The first thought that comes to mind with the Patriots' two-year agreement with veteran defensive lineman Tommy Kelly is "interior pass rush."

We'll ultimately see how much the 32-year-old Kelly has left in the tank, but when considering the Patriots' thinking with this move, it appears tied to the hope of generating more push next to All-Pro Vince Wilfork, while also building more depth to potentially reduce Wilfork's workload at times.

The Patriots were thinner than desired at the position in 2012, in part because of the failed free-agent signing of Jonathan Fanene. Also, 2009 second-round draft choice Ron Brace didn't emerge, leaving Wilfork and four-year veterans Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick as the primary contributors alongside Wilfork.

Love (6-1, 315) is more of a 3-4 nose tackle type than a penetrator, while Deaderick (6-4, 305) fits a little bit of a different profile -- he's played 3-4 end and also has the flexibility to penetrate at times as a 4-3 tackle. Adding to the group has been a priority for the Patriots this offseason, and Kelly's potential contributions as an interior penetrator would provide a boost.

Furthermore,  Wilfork played more than 80 percent of the defensive snaps in each of the last two seasons. He is the rock on the interior and entering his 10th season in 2013, he is still playing at a high level and there have been no signs of him slowing down.

But the Patriots must also consider that he's 31 and there might soon come a time when managing his workload takes on added importance. Kelly could help in that regard.