New England Patriots: L.T. Tuipulotu

Checking the locks: Patriots' DTs

July, 7, 2014
Jul 7
5:00
AM ET
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.

Some context regarding Kevin Williams, DTs

June, 18, 2014
Jun 18
11:00
AM ET
Veteran defensive tackle Kevin Williams told ESPN.com NFL Nation Vikings reporter Ben Goessling that he took a little less money to sign with the Seattle Seahawks than the New England Patriots. With the specifics of Williams' contract now known, there is some added context on how far the Patriots were willing to extend financially.

Williams
Via colleague Field Yates, Williams' deal breaks down this way:

Term/total value: One year, $2.1 million
Signing bonus: $250,000
Base salary: $1.5 million ($250,000 guaranteed)
Incentives: Up to $350,000 in per-game roster bonuses

With Williams electing to sign in Seattle, here is a snapshot look at the Patriots' defensive tackle depth chart, with a quick-hit thought on each player:

Vince Wilfork (6-2, 325): Captain and 11-year veteran is making progress in his return from a ruptured Achilles last September. Looks to be moving well.

Tommy Kelly (6-6, 310): Another 11-year veteran, he took another step in his return from a torn ACL by participating in 11-on-11 drills Tuesday.

Dominique Easley (6-2, 288): First-round draft choice is coming off two torn ACLs over the past 22 months, suffered in college, and has yet to take the field this spring.

Chris Jones (6-1, 309) Second-year player was claimed on waivers last year and led all Patriots defensive tackles in snaps played in 2013. Best when penetrating.

Sealver Siliga (6-2, 325): After a slow start to his career, the run-stuffer looks like he has built some momentum as a developmental prospect behind Wilfork.

Armond Armstead (6-5, 305): The former Southern Cal and Canadian Football League standout has been sidelined for most of spring camps after missing all of last season with an infection.

Joe Vellano (6-2, 300): Hard-working second-year player from Maryland is a lunch pail type of guy who plays with top effort.

Marcus Forston (6-3, 305): Second-year player has spent multiple seasons on the practice squad and has filled in when injuries hit.

L.T. Tuipulotu (6-1, 305): Undrafted free agent from Utah is on the developmental track.

Seali'i Epenesa (6-1, 310): Undrafted free agent from UCLA was signed on Tuesday.

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