With the New England Patriots‘ highly anticipated matchup against the New Orleans Saints less than two days away, the team’s roster is severely undermanned at several positions. Their defensive tackle spot is no exception, especially on Sunday.
After losing Vince Wilfork for the year to a torn Achilles and Tommy Kelly for at least this week with a knee injury, the Patriots have lost two key starters up front for the matchup.
Despite injury issues, the Patriots will have to somehow compensate for their losses, finding a way to stifle the Saints’ run game. Anyone that has seen him play knows how dangerous Darren Sproles is, and Pierre Thomas is no slouch either.
This brings me to Joe Vellano. He is an undrafted rookie free agent out of Maryland who the Patriots really like. He has played well so far filling in for the injured Wilfork, but he was the No. 2 defensive tackle at that time next to Kelly.
Now with Kelly out Sunday, Vellano will likely be the primary option at defensive tackle this week. Additionally, he defended BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard last week who, although they are good running backs, are not of the same caliber as Sproles or Thomas.
There is no doubt that this week will be the real test for Vellano. In any case, he will certainly be given ample opportunity to show the Patriots that he can hold the fort in the absence of both Wilfork and Kelly on Sunday.