With defensive tackle Vince Wilfork likely out for the season, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick must now turn to a rookie undrafted free agent to take Wilfork’s place. That man is Joe Vellano.
When people hear that a player is an undrafted free agent, they wonder why. In Vellano’s case, it’s because he doesn’t have any standout traits. Vellano, who played college football at the University of Maryland, was just a dude known for trying hard. The scouts say that he didn’t have much athletic ability, nor did he really showcase any repertoire of pass-rushing moves. In other words, Vellano had no upside in the NFL. And when a college football player has no upside, he is rarely drafted high or drafted at all.
Such is the case with Vellano. However, he must have made somewhat of an impression seeing that Belichick decided to make Vellano the third defensive tackle on the depth chart. One thing working for Vellano is that he fits in a four-man front considering his size (6-foot-2, 300 pounds) and gap-shooting ability. He can definitely rush the passer. The question is “how well can he rush the passer?”
So far Vellano is proving that he can do a decent job of pressuring the opposing quarterback. He had a solid preseason followed by a nice relief performance when Wilfork went down. His sack on Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was just downright nasty. Vellano literally beat Falcons center Peter Konz right off the snap. If Vellano continues to pull moves like that, Belichick might have found himself a steal.
It’s hard to replace Wilfork given his leadership and the attention he commands from opposing offensive linemen. But on the field, Vellano has the potential to at least provide similar pass-rushing productivity, which is something that Belichick will certainly like.
Philip Alexander is a New England Patriots writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @steely0906, “like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.