The New England Patriots‘ 2016 training camp is underway. Players fight for practice repetitions and playing time to earn one of the 53 spots on the roster. They have until late August, when each team has to start making its roster cuts, to secure a role.
Until then, players have to secure their spots on the team; they need to do their jobs (well) or someone else will. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots on the 2016 New England Patriots. Today, we’ll continue the series with defensive tackle Terrance Knighton.
Name: Terrance Knighton
Position: Defensive tackle
Jersey number: 96
Size: 6’3, 355 lbs.
2015 review: Knighton signed a one-year contract with the Washington Redskins in March 2015. Over the course of the offseason, he became a fixture on the team’s defensive line as the nose tackle in Washington’s 3-4 defense. As such, Knighton was active for 16 of the team’s 17 games, missing one because of a migraine.
Overall, the veteran was on the field 35.5% of the time, playing 402 of Washington’s 1,133 defensive snaps. Knighton saw the vast majority of his playing time on first and second down, working primarily as a run stuffer with only limited pass rushing responsibilities. However, the veteran defensive lineman was still able to register 1.5 sacks to go along with his 30 tackles.
2016 preview: Washington did not extend Knighton before the end of his contract, so he became an unrestricted free agent in March. By the end of the month, Knighton and the Patriots agreed to a 1-year, $1.75 million contract. Given that "only" $250,000 of the deal are guaranteed and the New England could therefore let go of the veteran without too big of a cap hit, Knighton is no surefire lock to make the team.
However, his chances of earning a spot on the 53-man roster are very good. After all, Knighton is one of the most talented and experienced defensive linemen on the Patriots and has the skill-set to be used as both a 3-4 nose tackle and a 4-3 defensive tackle. If he performs well enough during training camp and is able to adapt to New England’s two-gap system, he is projected to become an important member of New England’s rotation at the position – particularly on early downs.
As such, Knighton’s snap numbers will probably not look much different than last season’s. However, considering his size and the physicality of the position he plays, limiting his playing time to keep him fresh throughout the season seems like a good thing to do – for his sake and for the sake of the defensive tackle rotation.
Terrance Knighton has the tools to be a very good player within New England’s defense as a space-eater on first and second down. While he likely will not stand out with terrific statistics, he might help others do that – and as such become an important cog in the machine that is the Patriots’ defense.