Dominique Easley

Dominique Easley

With the majority of free agency completed and the draft looming, we’re going to take a look at the Patriots depth chart by position, and try and assess the level of need going forward. We’ve broken down each position on the offensive side of the ball. Now, it’s defense, and we start with the defensive line:

Current depth chart: (2014 regular-season stats via coaches film review and Pro Football Reference): Chandler Jones (43 tackles, 6 sacks, 10 quarterback hits, 2 passes defensed), Alan Branch (14 tackles, 2 quarterback hits, 1 pass defensed), Sealver Siliga (27 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 4 quarterback hits), Chris Jones (27 tackles, 3 sacks, 7 quarterback hits), Rob Ninkovich (56 tackles, 8 sacks, 16 quarterback hits, 1 INT, 2 passes defensed, 1 fumble recovery), Joe Vellano (6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 quarterback hit), Zach Moore (4 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery), Michael Buchanan (1 tackle), Dominique Easley (9 tackles, 1 sack, 3 quarterback hits). Jake Bequette remains on the practice squad, while the Patriots added DE/OLB Jabaal Sheard and defensive tackle Antonio Johnson in free agency.

Lost in free agency: Vince Wilfork (47 tackles, 1 quarterback hit, 1 INT, 2 passes defensed) signed with the Texans after the Patriots did not pick up his option. While he was able to bounce back following a season-ending Achilles injury in 2013 and go wire-to-wire in 2014, his off-field guidance as a pillar of the franchise could be a greater loss. DE/OLB Akeem Ayers (15 tackles, 4 sacks, 5 quarterback hits, 1 INT, 1 pass defensed) who was acquired midway through the year, ended up signing with the Rams.

Gained in free agency: Sheard. The 6-foot-3, 264-pounder has played in all 16 games in three of his four seasons in the league, and he recorded 44 tackles and two sacks last year. The 25-year-old has 23 career sacks. Meanwhile, the 30-year-old Johnson has posted 98 tackles and 4.5 sacks in six seasons in the league with the Titans and Colts.

Other changes: The Patriots re-signed versatile vet Branch to a new deal, and while he should be an important part of the rotation along the defensive line in 2015, the real guy to watch will be Easley, who was shelved for the season with a knee injury in December. The first-round pick in 2014 certainly showed himself to be a disruptive presence when he was able to play, but can be step in and be a big part of the New England defense in 2015? It’s unclear where he might line up along the defensive front — based on his size, skill set and what we saw from him in 2014, he’s strength is probably working as a 4-3 defensive tackle, with some time at end. But his progression and his health (specifically, his knees) will certainly be worth monitoring this spring and summer. (It’s also worth mentioning that Buchanan is coming back after a season-ending injury derailed his 2014 campaign, and figures to be a part of the conversation at the backup defensive end spot.)

Is this an area of need going into the draft? It is, at least from this perspective. While the Patriots do have a talented defensive front, there’s still the need for a sizable, run-stuffing type in the middle who can at least try and replicate what Wilfork was able to bring from an on-field perspective. (Maybe the 6-foot-3, 328-pound Johnson will get that chance?) Whether the Patriots try and go after a big body in the draft or for one of the remaining veteran free agents left on the market, it’s something New England figures to address between now and the start of camp.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price
Scott Chander, under the bright lights in Foxboro, meets with reporters at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Scott Chander, under the bright lights in Foxboro, meets with reporters at Gillette Stadium. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — It didn’t take tight end Scott Chandler long to realize what makes the Patriots the best organization in football and one of the best in pro sports.

Chandler, working out with his new teammates at Gillette Stadium, has realized that when your best player is also your hardest worker, it’s sets the tone for everyone else, even after winning a Super Bowl.

“It’s exciting to get to play with a guy who’s had some success in the past but that past success doesn’t determine future success,” Chandler said, after taking a break from his offseason workout day on Tuesday. “We’re all working hard right now and Tom’s working harder than anybody.

“It’s been fun to come in and these guys that you’ve seen and heard about for so long, to get to actually meet them and just a great group of guys. I’m just trying to find my niche in there.”

Chandler has also had the chance to rub elbows with Rob Gronkowski, another tight end is figures fairly prominently in the Patriots’ 2015 offensive plans.

“I had met Gronk a few times,” Chandler said. “He’s a fun loving guy. A fun guy to be around. He works hard. He’s a fun teammate to have. You can tell that they’re a classy organization from the top to the bottom. Guys want to work hard and do things the right way.”

Chandler said his first contact with his new teammates has come mainly through the workout program and not beforehand.

“Guys were enjoying their offseason time and I got here and there were a couple of guys I knew from before. Other than that, it’s kind of a been a learning experience. I think we want to do it the right way. You want to work hard and work hard to win games, and win games as a team.

“I think you want to do everything you can to just ingratiate yourself to your teammates. You see how hard guys work and you want to work hard with them. That’s what builds a team.”

Here were some other takeaways from Chandler on Tuesday at Gillette Stadium:

On his thoughts watching the Super Bowl: “You want to be a part of a good organization. I think that was the main factor for me. A great city and a great place to play.”

On whether he sought advice of Bill Belichick friend and Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz (where Chandler played in college): “I don’t know that I had to. When I was actually at Iowa, Bill came and talked to us. We had games in Arizona at the same time. I know what Coach Ferentz thinks of Bill. He comes highly recommended.”

On playing in New England after playing last five seasons in Buffalo: : “It just gives you a little more familiarity with the AFC East but other than that it’s a new team. Things are different and you try and be a part of that.”

On his thoughts on being drafted in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft?: “Looking back, it’s one of those processes that you look back on it and it’s fun. But when in you’re in the midst of it, you’re on egg shells the whole time. Going to the combine is kind of an exhausting thing and then sitting around. Back then, it was just two days luckily. I only had to sit around for two days because now I think I’d be sitting around a little longer. But it’s fun to look back on. Some good memories there.”

On his past success against Pats:: “I don’t know that that’s going to matter too much coming here. I think that it’s one of those things I’m coming to a new team. I need to just work hard and see what the coaches want to do with me.”

On whether there was any free agent interest from Pats in March ’14?: “I signed with Buffalo pretty quick so I don’t even remember it to be honest.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2015 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

JAVORIUS ALLEN

Position: Running back

School: USC

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 220 pounds

Achievements: 2014 All-Pac-12 first team, 2013 All-Pac-12 honorable mention, 2013 team MVP

What he brings: Allen is a mobile back who has impressed scouts with his ability to create space and make defenders miss with his quickness. At USC he became a threat in the passing game as well. He improved every year and became a productive rusher, but scouts would like to see him play to his size a bit more by being more physical so that he does not have to rely solely on his athleticism. There are concerns that Allen can be indecisive with the ball and make poor decisions, but these mental aspects of his game can be corrected and improved with coaching and experience.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 3-4

Notes: As a redshirt junior in 2014, Allen w as USC’s leading rusher with 276 attempts for 1,489 yards and 11 touchdowns to go along with 41 receptions for 458 yards and a receiving touchdown. He ended his college career with 417 rushing attempts for 2,306 yards and 25 touchdowns. He did not miss a game in his final two seasons with the Trojans. Allen also goes by his nickname, Buck.

Related articles:

LA Times: Former USC tailback Javorius Allen demonstrates pass-catching ability

USC News: Get to know star tailback Javorius ‘Buck’ Allen

Video: Here’s Allen rushing for 143 yards and two touchdowns and catching four passes for 86 yards against Arizona State in October 2014.

Blog Author: 
Nik Beimler

Looks like Tom Brady is going to be part of Super Bowl 50 in some form or fashion.

The quarterback posted a letter to Facebook (see below) Tuesday he received from commissioner Roger Goodell informing him that, as a Super Bowl MVP, he’ll be honored as part of the run-up to the upcoming Super Bowl, which will be held in the Bay Area.

What an honor… Hope I have my helmet on for the on-field ceremony in SF! #teameffort

Posted by Tom Brady on Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

The NFL will fine the Jets $100,000 in the Darrelle Revis tampering case, but will not subtract any draft picks from New York, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News.

The NFL will fine the Jets $100,000 in the Darrelle Revis tampering case, but will not subtract any draft picks from New York, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News.

The Patriots filed tampering charges with the league shortly after Jets owner Woody Johnson made comments about wanting Revis back when he was still under contract to New England, saying in December, “I’d love for Darrelle to come back.” The cornerback then signed with New York on the first day of NFL free agency.

According to Mehta, New England will not be punished for a counter-tampering charge the Jets made against the Patriots for comments that owner Robert Kraft made regarding Revis after he signed back with New York.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

According to ESPN New York’s Rich Cimini, there could be a resolution to the Jets’ tampering with Darrelle Revis situation before the start of the draft Thursday.

According to ESPN New York’s Rich Cimini, there could be a resolution to the Jets’ tampering with Darrelle Revis situation before the start of the draft Thursday.

The Patriots filed tampering charges against the Jets after owner Woody Johnson made comments about Revis while he was still under contract with the Patriots. Revis then went onto sign with the Jets on the first day of NFL free agency.

The Jets also filed tampering charges against the Patriots during the owners meetings when Robert Kraft spoke for the first time after Revis signed with the Jets.

It’s unclear what the potential penalty would be, and if draft picks were involved which year they would be taken away/switched.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2015 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

BYRON JONES

Position: Cornerback

School: UConn

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 196 pounds

Achievements: 2013 AAC All-Academic team

What he brings: As evidenced by his combine performance, Jones is an extremely athletic cornerback. Scouts are impressed with the way he is able to mix his athleticism, speed and strength to play an effective press coverage. Even against bigger and taller receivers, Jones is believed to have the ability to win his share of contested balls. Some scouts would like to see more patience in coverage. He is considered reliable in run defense, but he could benefit from added physicality. He is expected to be more effective in zone coverage than man. Scouts see Jones as a leader; he was a captain in his senior season.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 1-3

Notes: Jones not only set a combine record but passed the Olympic record for the broad jump at the combine with a distance of 12 feet, three inches. He also finished first among corners in the vertical jump (44.5 inches), first in the 60-yard shuttle (10.98 seconds), third in the three-cone drill (6.78 seconds) and third in the 20-yard shuttle (3.94 seconds). He was a captain for UConn in his senior season. In 2014 he recorded 24 tackles and two interceptions, but his season was ended early due to a shoulder injury.

Related articles:

NFL.com: Jones on world record broad jump

SB Nation: Jones’ path from political intern to early round prospect

Video: Here’s the video of Jones’ record-setting jump at the combine.

Blog Author: 
Nik Beimler

WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2015 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

JESSE JAMES

Position: Tight end

School: Penn State

Height: 6-foot-7

Weight: 254 pounds

Achievements: 2014 All-Big Ten honorable mention, holds Penn State record for career touchdowns by a tight end (11)

What he brings: James is an incredibly athletic tight end, as evidenced by his impressive combine performance. Scouts expect his huge frame and athletic ability will help him make contested catches and create space against smaller or less athletic defenders. There are concerns that, although he is often able to find seams in zone coverage, he struggles to shake the defense in man coverage. Scouts also would like to see improvement in his blocking ability.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 6-7

Notes: James recorded impressive results at the combine, finishing first in the broad jump among tight ends (10 feet, 1 inch), second in the bench press (26 reps), second in the vertical jump (37.5 inches) and fifth in the 60-yard shuffle (12.15 seconds). He recorded 38 receptions, 396 yards and three touchdowns in the 2014 season. James did not miss any games in the past two years. He is the director of marketing for Uplifting Athletes, helping to raise $150,000 to fight kidney cancer.

Related articles:

ESPN.com: James is ‘a freak of nature’

Video: Here’s James recording three catches for 27 yards in Penn State’s 2014 bowl game against BC.

Blog Author: 
Nik Beimler