There are many new faces on this Patriots team compared to last year. The Pats acquired four guys from trade, fifteen from free agency, and nine from the NFL Draft. They also lost nine players from trade and free agency and had three players retire.
In this new series, I will be looking at every player from each position leading up to training camp. For this part of the series, I will take a look at the defensive tackles. The Pats acquired one DT via trade, and two as undrafted free agents. They also were able to keep their main defensive tackles from last season.
Malcom Brown #90 (2015-Present):
Malcom Brown is entering his fourth year in the NFL and for the Pats. He was New England’s first-round draft choice in 2015, as he was taken as the 32nd overall pick. Brown played all 16 games in his rookie season while starting 12. In those 16 games, Brown had 48 tackles, 3 sacks, and 2 fumble recoveries. He also played in the two playoff games that year where he recorded six tackles. Brown’s 2016 season saw him play all 16 games while starting in 13. He had 3 sacks, 50 tackles, and a safety, over the course of that season. Brown played in 13 games and started 12 last season. He suffered an ankle injury which made him miss three games. In the 13 games, he did play in, Brown had 49 tackles and 2.5 sacks. He also had 6 tackles in the Super Bowl 52 defeat to Philadelphia.
— Kyle Smith (@NYJetsFilm) October 22, 2016
The Patriots recently declined Brown’s fifth-year option which will make Brown a free agent next offseason. Brown has been a very good player so far with New England. He can stuff the run, but also occasionally rush the passer. Brown has a very likely chance of making the roster, but with the Pats declining his option anything can happen.
Danny Shelton #71 (2018-Present):
Danny Shelton is going into his first year in New England and his fourth in the NFL. Shelton was the 12th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft and was the only defensive tackle picked ahead of Malcom Brown. In Shelton’s rookie season he played in 16 games and started 15; he had 36 tackles. His 2017 season saw Shelton start all 16 games and had 59 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Shelton suffered a calf injury in the 2017 season which caused him to miss 2 games. In the 14 games he played in, Shelton had 33 tackles.
— DLineVids (@DLineVids) March 15, 2017
The Pats acquired Shelton via trade with the Cleveland Browns. The trade included the Pats receiving a fifth-round pick and Shelton for a 2019 third-round pick. New England declined Shelton’s fifth-year option making him a free agent in 2019. Shelton is a very big man whose only really good at stuffing the run. He is a very good compliment to guys like Brown, Flowers, and Clayborn because of that. Shelton has a very likely chance of making the roster, but he can not show up overweight.
Lawrence Guy #93 (2017-Present):
Lawrence Guy is heading into his seventh NFL season and his second for New England. Guy was a seventh-round draft pick in the 2011 NFL Draft by the Colts. In his first five seasons, he played for three teams, Indianapolis, San Diego, and Baltimore. Over those three seasons, he appeared in 67 games, and had 129 tackles and 6.5 sacks. Before the 2017 season, Guy was signed to the Patriots on a four-year deal. His first season saw him start in 15 games and appearing in all 16. He had a career-high in tackles (58) and had 1 sack. Guy also played in all three playoff games having 21 tackles and 1 sack.
Watch Trey Flowers just abuse Leonard Fournette on Lawrence Guy’s sack. Fournette didn’t even slow him down. pic.twitter.com/PABgn0XjDS
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) January 22, 2018
Guy is a very versatile defensive-lineman as he can be a pass-rusher on the outside or a run-stuffer on the inside. With a lot more competition this year on the d-line, Guy will have to still battle for a roster spot.
Vincent Valentine #99 (2016-Present):
Vincent Valentine was the 96th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. He is now entering his third year for the team and in the NFL. Valentine’s role in 2016 was primarily to backup guys like Malcom Brown and Alan Branch. He played in 13 games and started 2. In those 13 games that he played, Valentine had 19 tackles and 1 sack. Valentine did not play one snap the entire 2017 due to a knee injury.
Valentine is primarily a run-stuffer as a 330 lb defensive linemen. With him coming off an injury, and the Patriots adding to the defensive line, it is going to be very tough for him to make the roster. Valentine’s best chance of making the team is most likely through the practice squad.
Adam Butler #70 (2017-Present):
Adam Butler was a pleasant surprise for the Patriots last year as an undrafted free agent out of Vanderbilt. Butler was forced to step up after many of the Patriots defensive linemen got injured. He appeared in 16 games his rookie year and started 6 of them. He had 19 tackles and 2 sacks over those 16 games. Butler also contributed in the playoffs with 3 tackles and 2 sacks in three games.
— BC (@dbc5361) January 14, 2018
Butler has shown so much potential as an undrafted rookie to be a good player in the NFL. However, even though he had a solid season last year that does not mean he will be a lock to make the roster. Butler is going to have to work very hard in preseason and training camp if he wants to make the 53 man roster.
Frank Herron (Rookie):
Frank Herron was picked up by New England as an undrafted free agent out of LSU. Herron was a four-year player at LSU but only played in 23 games over those years. His college career consisted of him having 67 tackles and 2 sacks.
Herron’s character issues are what dropped him out of the draft, but he did do well in the games he played. If Herron can stay on the field, I think he will have a career in the NFL as a backup. Herron’s best chance of making the Pats is by practice squad.
John Atkins (Rookie):
John Atkins was also picked up by New England as an undrafted free agent. He is joining his former college teammates, Sony Michel and Isaiah Wynn, as a rookie for the Patriots. Atkins had a four-year career at Georgia where he played in 36 games. Over the span of his career, Atkins had 81 tackles, 0 sacks, and a fumble recovery. He was a key factor in Georgia’s National Championship appearance.
Atkins is a run-stuffer only he has had zero sacks over the span of his career. The 330 pound defensive tackle will have to work very hard to make the team. His best chance to make the team is by practice squad, or a key-player getting hurt.
Overall, the Patriots defensive tackle group has only gotten better. The addition of Danny Shelton added to guys like Brown, Butler, and Guy will be a key reason to why the Patriots make another Super Bowl run.