Saturday, November 2, 2013
What's left for Patriots at defensive tackle?
By Mike Reiss
With defensive tackle Tommy Kelly being placed on season-ending injured reserve on Saturday, the question has been asked if the Patriots' defense can keep taking so many hits.
The loss of Kelly obviously hurts. But the team does have some depth at defensive tackle and here's how it breaks down:
Chris Jones (6-1, 309) -- The rookie from Bowling Green has been a surprise performer, totaling five sacks and playing every snap in two of the past three games. His style of play reminds us a bit of former Patriot Mike Wright. With good short-area quickness, he's more of a pure 4-3 defensive tackle in our view, with his best work coming as a 3-technique (outside shade on guard).
Joe Vellano (6-2, 300) -- A technician and a scrapper, the rookie from Maryland entered the year as the third man in a rotation with Vince Wilfork and Kelly and now is the last of that group left standing. He usually comes off the field in sub packages, so he's more of an early-down option. While not as big as Wilfork and Kelly, he has given the Patriots everything he has and has been competitive against NFL-caliber competition.
Isaac Sopoaga (6-2, 330) -- The 10-year veteran was acquired in a deal with the Eagles at the trade deadline (that swap looks even more important now) and is more of a pure nose tackle. He adds important size and experience to the group. While more athletic than some might give him credit for, his primary value figures to come as a run-stuffer. He played in the Eagles' base defense this season and had totaled a 39 percent playing time clip.
Marcus Forston (6-3, 305) -- A first-year player from the University of Miami, he spent 2012 on the team's practice squad. He is behind Jones, Vellano and Sopoaga on the current depth chart but represents important depth in the wake of injuries to Wilfork and Kelly.
Armond Armstead (6-5, 305) -- The first-year player from Southern California is on the reserve/non-football illness list after undergoing surgery for an infection before training camp began and has yet to practice. He remains around the team and is attending meetings, and has until Week 11 to begin practicing before the team would have to make a decision on his roster status.
A.J. Francis (6-0, 316) -- A rookie who spent training camp with the Dolphins, he was claimed by the Patriots at the roster cutdown to 53 players before ultimately landing on the team's practice squad. He played with Vellano at Maryland and remains on the practice squad.
Sealver Siliga (6-2, 325) -- A second-year player who has spent time with the 49ers, Broncos and Seahawks, he joined the Patriots' practice squad in late October. He's a developmental nose tackle prospect who played in college at Utah.