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 Malcom Brown.
Name: Malcom Brown
Position: Defensive tackle
Jersey number: 90
Size: 6’2, 320 lbs.
2015 review: After a three-year career at Texas, the Patriots selected Malcom Brown with the 32nd and final pick of the first round of the 2015 NFL draft. New England was ready to trade out of the spot until Brown fell into their lap after most notably being passed on by the Indianapolis Colts.
Despite getting drafted to join a deep defensive tackle depth chart, Brown was able to quickly establish himself as a key rotational piece, and later in the season a starter, on the interior of New England’s defense. He appeared in all 18 of the team’s games – starting 14 – and played more snaps than any other defensive tackle on the roster: 598 of 1,249 (47.9%).
The big-bodied Brown was really good against the run and finished the season with 53 tackles and nine run-stuffs. He was no slouch against the pass either, and registered 3.0 sacks, one quarterback hit and six pressures. He also recovered two fumbles and drew three penalties. By the time the playoffs started, Brown was already the Patriots’ most consistent defensive tackle. As a result, he was voted to the PFWA’s All-rookie team.
2016 preview: Entering his second year in the league, Brown is not only a lock to make the roster but also to play a majority of snaps at defensive tackle. After all, he is the future – and judging by his 2015 performance, the present as well – at the position, especially now that the team has parted ways with Dominique Easley. Ideally, Brown will be on the field for 50–70% of the snaps and only come off in obvious passing situations.
Having laid a solid foundation his rookie season, the 22-year old is a prime candidate to make a second-year jump. He has already been a solid run defender and if he can further improve his pass defense, Brown might actually become more of a three-down defender for the Patriots (similar to Vince Wilfork a little later in his career). This will probably not yet take place in 2016, but Brown has already shown in flashes that he is capable of taking on more responsibilities.
No matter if the Patriots play a three-man front or a four-man front, Brown should be a fixture. And as such anchor New England’s defensive line not only this season but hopefully for years to come.
While seeing Malcom Brown fall to the bottom of the first round last year was a surprise, his performance on the field was not. The Texas product entered the league as a talented prospect and has already been able to show why the Patriots felt comfortable drafting him. And yet, he has only scratched the surface of his potential and will continue his growth in 2016.