I was ecstatic when the New England Patriots signed DT Terrance Knighton in free agency. He was doing well late in the season with Washington and he looked like he was in the best shape of his life. He had dominated the Patriots offensive line in 2013.
I thought that he would be the #3 defensive tackle in the rotation, behind Malcom Brown and Alan Branch, and that he could be a stout run defender.
This has not happened.
Camp opened and Knighton was behind Markus Kuhn in the depth chart. Last week he was on the same line as rookie Vincent Valentine. This week, Valentine was with the first team and Knighton didn’t play a single snap on defense.
That’s not ideal, and Knighton knows it.
Terrance Knighton said "it's always a concern" when you don't play. Said he is uncertain of future with team but puts trust in coaches.— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) August 27, 2016
“It’s always a concern,” Knighton said about not playing on defense. It’s a major concern.
The Patriots are trying to figure out a calculus when building the roster and there are only a select number of spaces available. Branch and Valentine are two-gap space eaters. Brown and Kuhn can both two-gap and penetrate.
Knighton is currently the 5th best space eater on the roster, and if the Patriots keep five defensive tackles, they’d probably look to Anthony Johnson or another penetrator to round out the defensive tool box.
Terrance Knighton said he's 100 percent healthy. "Whatever happens happens. If I'm here I'm here. If I'm not I'm not."— Kevin Duffy (@KevinRDuffy) August 27, 2016
After the game, Knighton said, “If I’m here, I’m here. If I’m not, I’m not.” He does not sound confident in his standing with the team and it’s possible that the Patriots could go in a different direction.
When asked about Knighton’s lack of playing time, head coach Bill Belichick said that he wanted to see the younger players on the field, and added that Knighton was still learning the defense since the Patriot ask defensive tackles to do “different things than what [Knighton’s] used to doing.”
The Patriots have to trim the roster down to 75 players by August 30th. Knighton’s name could very well end up on the cutting room floor.