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Roster Breakdown: Defensive line

We continue our look at the roster as we analyze the defensive line.


Locks: Rob Ninkovich, Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Chandler Jones, Dominique Easley, Sealver Siliga, Will Smith, Michael Buchanan

Bubble: Joe Vellano, Chris Jones, Armond Armstead

Long shots: Jake Bequette, Zach Moore, Marcus Forston, Seali'l Epenesa, L.T. Tuipulotu


BREAKDOWN:** Health will be a major factor up front for the Patriots defense. Wilfork (Achilles) and Kelly (ACL) are coming off major injuries as they approach their mid-30s while the rookie Easley is coming off his second torn ACL in three years. Assuming all are healthy enough to open the season – and all three were on the field by the time mini-camp closed – that should make for an interesting mix along the interior. Easley should at the very least provide an athletic option in sub packages and spell the veterans from time to time. Smith is also coming off a torn ACL but the veteran has the ability to rush the passer if healthy. Siliga performed well down the stretch last season and provides another run-stopper if Wilfork can't physically handle the load. Vellano and Jones were pleasant surprises as rookies a year ago, with Vellano more in the run-stopper category and Jones as the penetrator who provided some pass rush. There may only be one spot for them to fight over, however. Armstead is a true mystery after missing 2013 with an infection and failing to make it on the field throughout the spring. At this point he may be closer to the long shot category based solely on his health. Forston and Bequette have been around a while but haven't done much. The rookie Moore is a raw athlete who could carve a role as a sub edge rusher, an area that lacks depth, but it's a huge jump from Division III Concordia-St. Paul to the NFL. A year on the practice squad might help. The rest are likely camp fodder, although that could have been said of Vellano a year ago and he emerged as a key player throughout the season.


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