Patriots Training Camp: Defensive Depth Chart

Defensive Line:

LDE: Rob Ninkovich, Geneo Grissom, Frank Kearse, Woodrow Hamilton

DT: Alan Branch, Terrance Knighton, Vincent Valentine, Anthony Johnson

DT: Malcom Brown, Joe Vellano, Markus Kuhn

RDE: Jabaal Sheard, Chris Long, Trey Flowers (14)

The Patriots made a bit of a transition on the defensive line parting ways with the likes of Chandler Jones, Dominique Easley, and Akiem Hicks. It will be up to Jabaal Sheard, Ninkovich, and offseason acquisition Chris Long to replace the sacks vacated by the Jones trade. In terms of interior lineman, the Patriots have beefed up in the offseason, opting for bigger DTs such as Terrance Knighton and Vincent Valentine. If you’re looking for a breakout player in this group it’s Malcom Brown. He started to show glimpses at the end of last season, and could develop into the team’s best defensive lineman.

Linebackers: Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Shea McClellin, Jonathan Freeny, Rufus Johnson, Ramon Humber Kevin Snyder, Elandon Roberts, Kamu Grugier-Hill (9)

Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower are the obvious leaders in this group as two of the most important players on the defense. McClellin gives Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia a versatile player that can play on the edge or as a MLB. McClellin started to find his way with the Bears in 2015, and could be this year’s Jabaal Sheard. Kamu Grugier-Hill is an exciting sleeper pick by Belichick in the sixth round of the 2016 draft. Grugier-Hill (6-2, 215 LBS) put up ridiculous numbers at his pro day, clocking in a 4.45 40-yard dash time. He has a nose for the ball and could make the roster as a special teamer.

Secondary:

Cornerbacks: Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Justin Coleman, E.J. Biggers, Cyrus Jones, Darryl Roberts, Cre’von  LeBlanc, Jonathan Jones, V’Angelo Bradley (9)

Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan will return to their starting roles after great 2015 seasons. The battle really is for that 3rd/slot CB spot that Justin Coleman has the inside track on. Rookie Cyrus Jones will also be in the hunt to man that role, and could also be used in the return game. The Patriots added some interested UDFA’s in Cre’von LeBlanc and Jonathan Jones. Both LeBlanc and Jones were given draftable grades by most experts, but were passed on due to measurables.

Safeties: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards, Cedric Thompson, Brandon King, Vinnie Sunseri, Brock Vereen (8)

The safety position may be the deepest on the Patriots roster. Chung has excelled as an in the box safety, as the Patriots used him essentially as a third LB in 2015. Harmon has carved out a role as a deep safety in cover-1 and cover-3, which allows the Patriots to unleash top defensive back Devin McCourty in a variety of roles.  McCourty lined up both at safety and cornerback at times, as the Patriots game planned the best use for him each week. Jordan Richards is in a tough spot stuck behind three veterans, and will need to continue to show something in camp. Brandon King is one of the team’s best special teamers, and looks like a roster lock.