This is probably an overlooked position that does not definitely have a clear cut starter. It is a position that the Patriots typically cycle through 3-4 players throughout a game, but the starters play in bigger situations and get more snaps. Although they let veteran Alan Branch walk this off season, they have a lot of talent at the position, so it will be interesting to see who “wows” the coaches in training camp.
Malcolm Brown – The guy who seems to have the position down the best in this defense. Brown started in at least 12 games every season in his 3 year career. His has showed out in most games as not only a very talented run stopper, but also a very good pass rusher. He is a multi-faceted interior lineman, but has had some laziness issues that have pulled him out of the starting lineup. He is the self proclaimed best decision the Pats have made, so if he starts he should have a pro bowl caliber season.
Lawrence Guy – Guy was a dominant force at times last year. He had a great knack for preventing running backs from breaking the line of scrimmage. He also showed great hustle, not giving up on plays to the outside and getting there to make tackles and fill cutback lanes. Guy will have his work cut out for him, and will most likely get his fair share of play time.
Danny Shelton – An addition this off season from Cleveland, Shelton has been a good defensive tackle. He was a first round pick that has under performed so far in his career. The Pats seem to have a knack of turning those guys around, especially from Cleveland. He fits the position well as a big guy that is versatile and athletic, and will battle with Guy for that spot most likely.
Vincent Valentine – Valentine was injured almost all of last season and did not really get to help his case. I think he is the ultimate run stuffer on this team. He is built like Vince Wilfork and can move pretty well for that size. He had one huge stop on the goal line in the AFC Championship 2 years ago that really stuck out. If he can come up in big situations like that, he will find himself a spot on the team.
Adam Butler – He is now listed as a defensive tackle, but also played some defensive end. He is easily the best pass rusher out of the bunch. His quickness and ability to rush the passer could earn him a spot as a role player on the d-line in big pass rush situations. He came up on some big 3rd downs with sacks last season.
Stopping the run has been an incredible weakness in the Patriots defense. It all starts with the interior d-line, and if these guys can make a difference next season, then the defense will greatly improve.
-Jake Kobierski (@TheRealKobe83)