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Easley pick even better than player

Posted May 9, 2014

The Patriots pick of defensive tackle Dominique Easley is exciting, and not just because of the player’s talents.

While I like the skills that Dominique Easley brings to the football field, like many fans and media members it’s obviously concerning to me to consider his history of ACL injuries.

But when you think about it, the ACL injury from three years ago proves that he can return from major knee issues. So if he can bounce back from it once – he had a career-high 4.5 sacks in 2012 – why can’t he return from it again?

I’m not quite ready to anoint Easley the next John Randle or Geno Atkins. But I’m not just going to assume he’s the next Ras-I Dowling either. Time will tell if his supposed elite potential outshines his obvious injury history.

I do, however, take two very big positives away from the Patriots selecting Easley with the 29th pick in the first round on Thursday night.

The first is the apparent fact that Bill Belichick and his scouting department very much liked the player, even with his injuries. They seeming targeted Easley as a guy they really wanted at a position they’ve really wanted to fill in recent years. New England likely had the chance to move down, as they’ve done so often, but they stood pat and picked. That’s what we’ve all screamed for Belichick to do at various times over the years given his impressive scouting acumen – simply stay put and pick the best guy he can find.

Whether Easley pans out to perfection or not, you have to like Belichick’s decisive decision to pick the player.

Second, and maybe even most importantly, is the inference that can be made about how the Patriots are going to play on defense given the Easley selection. He’s an undersized, penetrating, disruptive defensive tackle. He’s unlike anything the Patriots have really had in quite some time. He’s more athletic and talented than guys like Mike Wright and Jarvis Green, who are more sub rushers. He has way more potential and athletic skill than Jonathan Fanene, Red Bryant or others.

Easley certainly can be compared, in style, to Atkins. Atkins’ aggressive, athletic style has led to 29 sacks over four seasons, including 12.5 in 2012.

The Patriots have rarely if ever had the type of gap-shooting, pocket piercing presence on the interior that Easley has the potential to be. His arrival would seemingly signal the possibility of a more aggressive style of play on defense, one that might be even more dangerous given the man-coverage abilities of Darrelle Revis, and to a lesser extent Brandon Browner.

Mix in the recent talk this spring of young linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower about preferring to be rushing the passer in passing situations rather than covering and all the factors seem to be in place for a far more up-the-field Matt Patricia-led defense in 2014.

So in the end while it’s obviously a consideration that Easley has had two ACL tears, and is still recovering from the second, it’s also intriguing just how much Belichick seemingly wanted to pick a player who might have a dramatic effect on how the middle of the New England defense operates.

Belichick pretty aggressively took the player he wanted, and that player might make the Patriots defense better suited to pretty aggressively go after opposing offenses.

Both of those things are pretty exciting.

Now that you’ve had plenty of time to digest the Patriots pick of Easley, how do you feel about the selection? Let us know with a comment below!

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The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on the PFW Blog represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the New England Patriots organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Patriots officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.

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