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News Blitz 7/16: The state of the Patriots front seven

Posted Jul 16, 2014

This edition of the Patriots.com news blitz takes a look at the team's linebacker and defensive line depth entering training camp.

With The MLB All-Star game having took place last night, I figured we'd start today off with a baseball fun fact. Oakland Athletics All-Star pitcher, Jeff Samardzija says he could have been preparing for training camp in Foxborough right now had he decided to play football instead of baseball. According to WEEI's Rob Bradford, the 6-foot-5 Samardzija was also a highly sought after wide receiver during his time at Notre Dame. In fact, he was viewed as a first round pick in the 2007 draft and the Patriots were considering trading up to draft him. Samardzija played under Charlie Weis at Notre Dame, so it seemed like it would be a perfect match.

"Having been drafted by the Cubs in the fifth round of the '06 MLB draft, resulting in a five-year deal with Chicago, Samardzija told every NFL team not to bother drafting him in '07," writes Bradford. "The result was a solid career in baseball, and the Patriots picking Brandon Meriweather with the 24th overall selection."

Alas it wasn't meant to be...

With training camp only a week away, James Dudko listed 5 players who are facing make-or-break training camps. The Bleacher Report's article included James White, Will Smith, Michael Buchanan, Joe Vellano, and James Anderson as five players to keep an eye on.

"The Pats need to freshen up the rotation along their defensive front. That's one reason why they signed veteran Will Smith off the NFL scrapheap," says Dudko. "He'll now be expected to push aside 2013 seventh-round pick Michael Buchanan."

If you notice, 3 of the players on Dudko's list were defense lineman. For a more in depth look at the defensive line battle, Erik Frenz breaks down the whole picture on Boston.com. He believes the team has a good mix of young talent and veteran experience at the position. However, Frenz is not so high on the depth of the other half of the defensive front seven. He believes the linebackers have a strong core, but behind the starters there isn't much depth. Ultimately he projects 5 backers to make the cut including Jerod Mayo, Jamie Collins, Dont'a Hightower, James Anderson, and Steve Beauharnais.

"At the moment, we haven't seen enough from any of the linebackers that were brought in this offseason to make a conclusion as to their status in the battle for roster spots. Anderson gets the nod for the moment due to his abilities in coverage, and Beauharnais gets his spot due to his experience in the system," writes Frenz.

According to Comcast SportsNet, one linebacker that has something to prove this season is Jamie Collins. Collins was listed (along with eight of his teammates) as 'a player with something to prove' in the upcoming season. Expectations are extremely high for the second-year linebacker so the pressure will be on for him to step up to the task. Stevan Ridley, Vince Wilfork, Darrelle Revis, Danny Amendola, Dont'a Hightower, Ryan Wendell, Brandon Browner, and of course, Tom Brady were also mentioned in CSN's list.

Glen Farley of the Patriot Ledger took a look at the Patriots 2014 schedule and believes that it could spell trouble for Tom Brady and Co. According to Farley, the Patriots have the 10th toughest schedule in the NFL and the only team in the AFC East that has a harder road is the New York Jets (9th toughest schedule). He admits he doesn't expect the Patriots to lose the AFC East, but he says that their difficult schedule may impact their Playoff seeding.

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