Last week we broke down what might be the biggest competition the Patriots have ever had for weapons on offense. Now, lets take a look at who might end up being bubble players on the defense, and who might be fighting for their starting position.
The defensive line does not look like it should be too wild of a battle. Unless the Pats first draft pick in Derek Rivers really impresses, it looks like the clear cut edge rushers will be Kony Ealy and Trey Flowers. The battle for the roster should include Rivers, fellow draft pick Deatrich Wise, and special teamer Geneo Grissom. The starting spot at the interior defensive line will be more interesting. Alan Branch was the best player on that line last season, and if he does not regress, should keep his spot. The next spot will be up for grabs between Malcolm Brown, Lawrence Guy, and Vincent Valentine. Brown is very good, but can be inconsistent which caused him to lose his spot last year to Valentine. Valentine was impressive in his playing time, especially in the AFC Championship. Guy was an under the radar breakout player in Baltimore, and should make his case for the starting spot, and might just get it.
The linebacker position seems pretty clear cut. Dont’a Hightower, Rob Ninkovich and Elandon Roberts are listed as starters currently. They will most likely cycle like they did last year with Shea McClellin and Kyle Van Noy. The only bubble guy will probably be Jonathan Freeny. He has been hurt the pat two seasons, and if he doesn’t impress he could lose his spot to the likes of a couple undrafted rookies, or Trevor Bates from the practice squad.
In the defensive backfield, the cornerback position does not seem too deep. After clear cut starters Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore, it goes to the likes of Eric Rowe and Justin Coleman, who were beat consistently last year. It would be great to see Cyrus Jones step up from his horrendous rookie season, and breakout into a great nickel corner. If not, maybe special teams player Jonathan Jones, who might be the fastest player on the team could step up to take the spot. They also currently have 10 safeties on the roster right now. Who knows why, but that will be a tough fight for a roster spot. It will be interesting to see what happens with Pat Chung, who could be a salary casualty if he doesn’t play well this season, making $4.5 mil this year. He could be overtaken by young guns Duron Harmon and Jordan Richards, who have been better in coverage than Chung, who is more for run support. Nate Ebner will also make the roster for his great special teams ability. That leaves 4 undrafted rookies to duke it out for what might not even be an active roster spot.
Maybe it isn’t quite as exciting as the offensive battles, but you can’t just watch offense in the preseason games! Pay attention to these guys, see who breaks out and who might unexpectedly fall off the roster.
Written By: Jake Kobierski (@TheRealKobe83)