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Don't Panic Over Dominique Easley Yet

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2014 1st round pick placed on Phyiscally Unable to Perform list.

With Dominique Easley, it's best to exhibit patience right now.
With Dominique Easley, it's best to exhibit patience right now.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Dominique Easley was a first round gamble by Bill Belichick in the 2014 draft, hoping to gain a premier talent at a low 1st round value. Belichick is not afraid to take those type of gambles, as evidenced by the selections of Rob Gronkowski in 2010 and Ras-I Dowling in 2011. Easley in the midst of a breakout campaign his senior year of Florida that would have likely placed him in the top 10 of the draft had he finished the season healthy. Instead, he tore his ACL in the 4th game of the season and didn't play another down until Week 1 of the 2014 NFL season. Like any other rookie, Easley flashed that talent at times and struggled. Then his 2014 season was cut short because the knee became a problem again. It could be the case of the Patriots perhaps rushing him back a bit early, but that's speculative plus both Easley and Belichick aren't going to answer that question because it really isn't important.

This is what Boston Herald writer Jeff Howe tweeted about Easley's knee, just in case you missed it on the PUP thread.

Today, the Patriots placed Easley on the active Physically Unable to Perform List. That looks more like a precautionary move than the Patriots being worried about Easley's health. At the defensive tackle position, the Patriots have Sealver Siliga and Alan Branch as the primary starters and had just drafted Malcom Brown in the first round. The position isn't in poor shape at the top of the depth chart although having Easley makes the position even more dangerous for the Patriots. Even though this news is a bit discouraging considering the circumstances surrounding him in his first season and off-season in the NFL, here is why we shouldn't panic:

  1. Training Camp Hasn't Started: The Patriots don't meet up for training camp until Wednesday and the first practice isn't until Thursday. It's possible that Easley could be activated from PUP then, which is why we should wait and let the situation unfold before jumping to conclusions. The time between the start of training camp and the first preseason game on August 13 is two weeks, which is a lot of time from a football perspective. Then it's four weeks between that game and the season opener against Pittsburgh. That is twice the amount of time as it is from the start of camp. Once the Patriots take Easley off PUP, they can't put him back on again this season. If Easley is still on PUP after the second preseason game, you can start panicking a bit.
  2. It's Better to Have Easley at 100% to Start the Season: The Patriots can control at this point when he's able to start practicing. I don't think his knee issues necessitate a trip to the reserve PUP list. Once he goes on Reserve PUP, he can't practice until after Week 6. If Easley has to sit out a couple games in the season, I don't necessarily think that's a big deal. I'd rather have Easley at 100% than at 75-80%, because the latter makes him more likely to get injured. The Patriots are pretty solid with DT depth right now and with Blount's Week 1 suspension can afford to carry another DT to start the season if necessary.
  3. When Easley is Healthy, He's Ridiculous: When Dominique Easley is healthy, he is downright unblockable at times. With a ridiculously quick and explosive first step, he gets into the backfield before the offensive linemen can get out of their stances. That's a nice weapon to have and can take off a lot of stress for the secondary, composed of young and talented players along with band-aid veterans. One of the more underrated tributes for Easley is length, which could help him swat down a few passes for when he does get blocked. With the depth the Patriots have up front this year, they should be able to keep Easley on a healthy snap count. That figure would be about 55-60% of the season, potentially even more because of his versatility to play inside and on the edge effectively.
Here is a testament to now difficult a block he can be. While the NFL is a big step up from the SEC, it's still worth noting. I believe that Easley will have a breakthrough campaign in 2015. A breakthrough campaign is something I consider as their first season in the spotlight. It's different than what I consider a break out campaign, which is when a player has his first season at a great to elite level. If Easley is healthy for 19 games, could be both.