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Analysis: More options at DL in 2021

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – There were times last season when the Patriots looked thin, literally and figuratively, along their defensive line. Opposing offenses often had little difficulty running the football against New England's defense, which had limited numbers of players to insert into the lineup at that particular spot.

Consequently, during their springtime spending spree in free agency, the Patriots made defensive line a priority, investing in beefy veterans Davon Godchaux, Henry Anderson, and Montravius Adams. In addition, the club made it a point to retain the services of reliable holdovers Lawrence Guy (a 2020 co-captain) and Deatrich Wise, as well as journeyman Carl Davis, a midseason pickup in 2020 who only saw action in three games.

Later, during the NFL Draft, the Patriots continued to address their depth at D-line with the addition of second-round choice Christian Barmore from Alabama.

Since training camp began last month, there's been a steady stream of defensive line personnel groupings rotating in an out during the team periods of practices (11-on-11 , with the aforementioned men having seen plenty of snaps thus far. New England now seems to have an intriguing mix of players up front who could help bolster the run defense and possible add some pressure on the quarterback from the inside.

Nipping at these guys' heels are several players who remain from the 2020 active roster and practice squad: Rashod Berry, Tashawn Bower, Bill Murray, Akeem Spence, and Nick Thurman. All but Murray contributed in at least a handful of games last season, but the club felt strongly enough about Murray to keep him on the practice squad for the entirety of 2020. This summer, though, he's competing along with Berry, Bower, Spence, and Thurman for a dwindling number of D-line roster spots.

Injuries have also been a factor for a few members of the defensive line. Third-year player Byron Cowart, a 2019 draft choice, started camp on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) and hasn't yet been able to suit up for practices. He started all 14 games in which he appeared last season, after only appearing as a reserve in five games as a rookie the previous campaign.

Meanwhile, defensive end/edge rusher Chase Winovich is still waiting to see his first action of 2021, after having sat out all of the spring practices. Like Cowart, Winovich was placed on PUP to start camp.

It should also be noted that the rookie Barmore appeared to suffer a left foot injury during the sixth training camp session and subsequently missed some practice time thereafter.

Overall, though, it looks as if New England has a substantial variety of players, a blend of youth and experience with differing skill sets and body types to incorporate into its defensive line competition this summer. This should prove beneficial to the Patriots defense in the long run.

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