Bill Belichick takes his orange juice shaken- not stirred. (Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE)
The Patriots have spent their first two draft picks on players for the defensive front seven as Bill Belichick and the front office try to improve their defense in order to be more competitive. They moved up in the draft to grab DE/OLB Chandler Jones and LB Dont'a Hightower. However, the Patriots seem fairly stacked at the linebacker position- so where do these players fit on the field and into the depth chart? It seems as if the Patriots spent both picks- and moved up- because they are impact-now type of players. Here's my projected positional depth charts:
Hightower has experience as the Will and Mayo would be able to play his Mike spot. To throw a wrench, I think that Brandon Spikes would assume the Mike and Mayo would slide to the Will if they're on the field at the same time. Jones assumes the elephant role as primarily a pass rusher and, as a rookie, I would expect him to have his hand in the dirt a fair amount of time.
LDE: Chandler Jones - Trevor Scott - Markell Carter
NT: Vince Wilfork - Ron Brace
DT: Myron Pryor - Kyle Love
RDE (heavy): Jonathan Fanene - Brandon Deaderick
RDE (light): Rob Ninkovich - Jermaine Cunningham
Sam: [Rob Ninkovich] - Dont'a Hightower - Bobby Carpenter
Mike: [Dont'a Hightower] - Brandon Spikes - Dane Fletcher
Will: Jerod Mayo - Tracy White
This gives two sets- a heavy package for running downs and a light package for passing downs. Ninkovich remains a key pivot as he'll take the Sam role in heavy packages, kicking Hightower to the Mike.
Of course, there will be sub packages where Jones will play 3-3 DE and when Hightower will play 3-4 OLB, but that's the beauty of both of these players; they're so versatile and can play all over the field. Belichick should have a field day as he tries to take the defense to a new level.
The Patriots could look to add another defensive lineman, but it seems as if they're winding down on defensive front seven. There are other positions of need (wide receiver, interior line, defensive back) that the Patriots will most likely try to focus on over the next few days.
Looking at Day 1, it's clear the Patriots were aggressive in grabbing the players they think will put the defense over the top. Both players have roles to fill on defense and it's clear that there's a spot on the field if they deserve to play.
I think they'll both be ready to play.