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Training Camp Positional Snapshot: Defensive Line

In the lead-up to 2023 training camp, we’re inspecting the Patriots roster position by position. Today, an examination of the defensive line.

Patriots defensive lineman Deatrich Wise (91).
Patriots defensive lineman Deatrich Wise (91).

ANALYSIS

The Patriots defensive line returns completely intact from 2022, with re-signings of nose tackle Carl Davis and penetrating tackle Daniel Ekuale ensuring important continuity in 2023. However, the position is not without some questions, as veteran Lawrence Guy was missing from the OTA practice fields with reports of contract dissatisfaction. Guy has missed just a handful of games over his six-year Patriots career, topping 500 defensive snaps in each, and has been one of the mainstays upfront. His status will be one of the main things to monitor as the team kicks off training camp.

Davon Godchaux (29 stops, t-3rd on Patriots) is fresh off a contract extension signed last summer and posted a solid 2022 as he's yet to miss a game in two seasons in New England. Deatrich Wise had a career season in 2022 with 7.5 sacks and 26 stops (4th) as the six-year veteran has emerged as one of the team's rising defensive leaders up front. Godchaux and Wise will be two key pieces that the team must rely upon, while third-year Christian Barmore will be the x-factor of the group.

Limited to just 10 games in 2022, Barmore missed the chance to build off a stellar rookie season that saw him make an immediate impact as a disruptive interior tackle with 48 pressures in 2021. Barmore's high energy and surprising power could help the team improve in some key areas. Despite logging the fifth-most sacks in the league, the defense was in the lower half of the league on third down, a spot where Barmore can shine whether he's generating the pressure himself or drawing double teams that free up his teammates.

Ekuale (22 pressures and 18 hurries) did a nice job helping to fill Barmore's interior rush role during 2022 and provides a solid complement and depth behind his teammate in that regard. Now entering his third season with New England and fifth in the NFL, Ekuale could be finding his stride as a solid contributor. He signed a two-year pact this offseason.

Developmental second-year players Sam Roberts and Jeremiah Pharms add some needed youth to the group, while undrafted rookie Justus Tavai appears to be the only new addition up front. That could change as second-round pick Keion White's early reps in the spring had him largely playing in a stand-up edge role much of the time but he could find himself more in the mix with this defensive line group, as he was primarily a hand-down defensive lineman at Georgia Tech. That could impact the dynamics, with White having the potential to work into roles similar to Wise's hand-down edge spot or Barmore and Ekuale's interior rusher roles.

The Patriots defense has put up solid numbers the last two seasons, ranking 4th overall in DVOA is 2021, and 5th overall in 2022, however some of the advanced statistics shine a light on areas to improve like their sub-par third down performance (21st), red zone percentage (22nd), and their 31st-ranked stuffed run rate (per Football Outsiders). They're a veteran group and one that needs their core players like Godchaux and Wise to maintain or build on their solid levels of play, but it's players like Barmore, Roberts and potentially White that could help them elevate to a new level. Guy will be one to watch for, he's been a reliable contributor and one who would not be easily replaced with no clear successor on the roster.

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