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Monday, July 7, 2014
Checking the locks: Patriots' DTs

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 defensive tackles.

Sure-fire locks: Vince Wilfork, Dominique Easley, Chris Jones

Near locks: Tommy Kelly, Sealver Siliga

Trying to get in the door: Joe Vellano, Armond Armstead, Marcus Forston, Seali'i Epenesa, L.T. Tuipulotu

Wilfork
ANALYSIS: Much like the Patriots' running backs who could be viewed through two different lenses (bigger early down backs and smaller "passing" backs), the Patriots have a similar setup at defensive tackle with some bigger-bodied run-stuffers who aren't known as much for penetrating gaps (Wilfork, Siliga) and some smaller penetrators more likely to win with quickness than pure power (Easley, Jones). One area to monitor is the health of some key players as Wilfork (ruptured Achilles), Easley (torn ACL), Kelly (torn ACL) and Armstead (missed 2013 with an infection) are all coming off serious injuries. Another factor to consider is that in some sub packages, the Patriots reduce end Chandler Jones to more of a defensive tackle role. Still, the Patriots felt they could have absorbed one more "lock" in pursuing veteran Kevin Williams before Williams signed with Seattle, which is a sign that Bill Belichick might still be concerned with the depth at this spot.