With some down time before training camp, we're inspecting the Patriots roster position by position. Today, an examination of linebackers.
LOCKS: Dont'a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy
BUBBLE: Elandon Roberts, Ja'Whaun Bentley, Christian Sam, Marquis Flowers, Nicholas Grigsby, Harvey Langi
LONG SHOTS: None
BREAKDOWN: A healthy Hightower is obviously the key to this group. He missed most of last season and the defense struggled badly at times in his absence. If he's able to play the bulk of the season, and more importantly in the playoffs, things look much brighter.
Van Noy has emerged as a dependable second banana to Hightower. He has the versatility and toughness to compete in a variety of roles and is the clear starter and the other linebacker spot.
The Patriots tried to improve the depth at this position by drafting Bentley and Sam in the middle rounds. Strong camps by one or both could put Roberts' future in doubt. Flowers, Grigsby and Langi are special teams options but haven't shown the ability to contribute on defense. Look for only four of these six (at most) to make the cut.