Who Will Step Up For New England Patriots At Defensive Tackle?

By Will Gellman
Armond Armstead New England Patriots

With the NFL regular season fast approaching, the New England Patriots have several position battles to keep an eye on. We all know about the receiver, quarterback and tight end battles, however, one position is flying heavily under the radar for the Patriots.  That position is on the interior defensive line.

The Patriots have Vince Wilfork on one side, but who will back him up on the other side? With the losses of both Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick on the defensive line, the position is very much up in the air.  Here are a few options to consider.

The obvious choice for the Patriots would be Armond Armstead, who has yet to play in the NFL, playing instead, for the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL. The Argonauts signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2012.  He was undrafted because of health concerns, not based on ability, as he had heart issues while attending USC.  Before these issues surfaced, many scouts believed he could be a top-tier defensive lineman in the NFL. Additionally, he recently suffered an infection that required surgery to remove, which, if he isn’t fully healthy for the season, could be a bet against him backing up Wilfork. If he is healthy though, he should be the front runner to make the transition to backup DT for the Patriots in 2013.

The next obvious choice to start next to Wilfork would be Tommy Kelly, who is a solid veteran who has played nine seasons for the Oakland Raiders. If the Patriots choose to go with experience rather than upside, Kelly may be the guy they turn to. The question for Kelly is what does he have left in the tank? After a sub-par 2012 where he put up only 45 tackles and 1 sack, and at age of 32, it is clear that Kelly’s time in the NFL may be coming to an end. If the Patriots choose to go with him, they will have to hope that his bad year was a product of him playing on a mediocre team, rather than a declining skill set.

Another choice to play behind Wilfork is Marcus Forston, who, like Armstead, was also signed by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2012, spending the majority of that season on the team’s practice squad. He played his college career in Miami and a sub-par junior season caused him to go undrafted. Although his college tenure was unimpressive, he has impressed many people within the Patriots organization, and may be in their plans for 2013.

Whatever the team decides, it will be interesting to watch this battle continue to unfold throughout the preseason. Even though it has flown under the radar this year, the Patriots defensive lineman decision will play an integral part for the Patriots’ defense in 2013 and beyond.

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