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Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Checking the locks: Patriots' LBs

By Mike Reiss

As part of this slow time on the NFL calendar, when we'll be taking a break to recharge for the 2014 season, we introduce the pre-produced "checking the locks" series in which we analyze the players on the Patriots' roster who are "locks" to stick. Today, it's linebackers.

Sure-fire locks: Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins

Trying to get in the door: Chris White, Steve Beauharnais, James Anderson, Ja'Gared Davis, Darius Fleming, Cameron Gordon, Josh Hull, Taylor McCuller, Deontae Skinner

ANALYSIS: There is a clear breaking point between the top three of the depth chart and the backups, as we could envision various scenarios when it comes to reserves (probably 3) on the roster. Special teams are always a significant factor, and Chris White was a core member of the kicking-game units in 2013, which would seem to give him an early edge. But there is no shortage of competition. Former Carolina Panther and Chicago Bear James Anderson offers the most starting experience among the backups, as well as solid pass-coverage skills that could warrant him consideration in the "near-lock" category. But in the end, because of the possibility of younger players like Steve Beauharnais, Ja'Gared Davis, Darius Fleming, Cameron Gordon and Co. flashing potential that warrants a roster spot, putting him with the rest of the group seemed like the better play. The battle for backup linebacker spots looks like one of the team's most intense training camp competitions to monitor.