The New England Patriots dedicated a large portion of their 2015 season addressing the defensive front seven. They signed defensive end Jabaal Sheard in free agency to join starters Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. The linebacker position was set with Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins. They were hoping to return a pair of first round picks to the lineup, after both defensive tackle Dominique Easley and linebacker Jerod Mayo ended the 2014 season on the injured reserve.
The team selected defensive tackle Malcom Brown in the first round of the 2015 draft and added defensive tackle Akiem Hicks in the middle of the season. It was a true attempt at creating a scary defensive front seven.
New England added two extra players to the defensive front seven in the 3rd and 4th rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft in edge defenders Geneo Grissom and Trey Flowers. Neither had the impact that many were expecting.
3rd round, 97th overall, DE Geneo Grissom: Grissom was active for the 2015 season, appearing in all but two games: the week 6 game against the Colts, and the week 14 game against the Texans (he gave up a blocked punt against the Eagles in week 13). He contributed on 11.9% of defensive snaps when players like Chandler Jones and Jabaal Sheard were injured and unavailable, but his primary role as a rookie came on special teams where he played 28.9% of snaps.
Head coach Bill Belichick was giddy after he selected Grissom at the end of the 3rd round and was imagining all of the different places Grissom could align over the defense. Grissom totaled five tackles and one sack and remains a work in progress.
It's unlikely that Grissom will be cut because he functions as the team's 4th edge defender, and his special teams contributions warrants him a spot on the game day roster. He will likely receive another season to continue his development.
4th round, 101st overall, DE Trey Flowers: After a dominant preseason ended with a shoulder and knee injury, Flowers only managed to play 4 snaps during his one active game of the regular season before ending up on the injured reserve. 2015 was effectively a red shirt year for Flowers, but his role in 2016 is definitely in question.
Flowers couldn't contribute on special teams and with a logjam of Jones, Sheard, and Ninkovich on the defensive front, the rookie couldn't even crack the active roster. Flowers will either have to fight his way into the defensive rotation, or at least learn some special teams skills if he wants to earn his way on the roster. Or maybe someone ahead of him in the depth chart will be traded away.
Otherwise, he's a borderline fringe candidate to make the team and could be a possible trade option if the Patriots want to recuperate a late round draft pick, or maybe a flier on another team's back-of-the-roster prospect. Grissom's special teams availability makes him more valuable for the Patriots team-building.