It’s time for some defense baby! After giving all of my wisdom on the offensive side of the ball we move over to the defense, which was one of the strongest in the league last year. We’ll start with the defensive line. (DISCLAIMER: I know Winovich and Simon are OLB but the roster says they are defensive lineman and that is what I go off of. File your complaints to @Patriots on Twitter)
You can find all of the offensive tiers below:
Here’s the tier.
Lawrence Guy — I strongly considered Chase Winovich for this spot but his role wasn’t big enough last year to warrant that. Guy on the other hand has been a one man wrecking crew since he signed with the Patriots. In his three seasons in New England, he has racked up 5.0 sacks, 178 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and three turnovers. Those numbers far outweigh what he did in his first five seasons in Baltimore, Indy, and San Diego. He was signed to play alongside Alan Branch but quickly became his replacement as the anchor in the middle of the defensive line. That coincided with the emergence of Adam Butler to form one of the better interior duos in the league. Also his last name is Guy, was there ever going to be anyone else in this spot?
Chase Winovich (OLB) — Like I said earlier, Winovich is an outside linebacker, but he’s listed as a lineman so here he is. In a rough year for rookies in New England, Winovich really stood out in 2019. Only he and Jake Bailey saw real playing time and they both made the most of it. Winovich played primarily in obvious passing situations but made plays when on the field. His 5.5 sacks were tied for fourth on the team. Without the two leaders (Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy) he will be relied upon to head the pass rushing unit in 2020. It should also be said that Winovich is a great special teamer, his motor keeps him in just about every play. (Check out the film room blog that Bernd and Taylor wrote on him here)
Adam Butler — Butler isn’t just one of the many UDFAs to make the Patriots roster in the Bill Belichick era, he is one of the best. The Pats have certainly been on a roll lately (J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, David Andrews, Malcolm Butler) but Butler has arguably been the most consistent player since the streak began. His sacks, tackles for loss, and quarterback hit numbers have all increased each of his three years. He finished 2019 with 6.0 sacks, eight TFL, and nine QB hits. He always had a knack for the pass rush but has also improved as a run defender. His PFF run grade has improved in all three years. The improvements have been steady enough to expect another year better than the last in 2020. If that is the case the Patriots may have a tough time keeping him in New England.
Beau Allen — Beau Allen is your Danny Shelton replacement. The Minnetonka, MN native spent the last two years in Tampa Bay after playing out his rookie contract with the Eagles. Allen (6’3” 330lbs) is a little leaner than Shelton (6’2” 345lbs) but plays a similar game. He projects to be an assignment guy in the middle who will fill gaps and creates opportunities for others on the defense. He is a lock because of the depth at defensive tackle and the role he plays. No one else fits the Danny Shelton mold quite like Beau Allen.
John Simon (OLB) — I can’t put into words how much I love John Simon. The guy does freaking everything and has become one of the most successful Belichick reclamation projects of the second dynasty. Guys like Akeem Ayers (Titans second-rounder), Shea McClellin (Bears first-rounder), and Barkevious Mingo (Browns first-rounder) all had contributed to winning teams but didn’t stick. John Simon has turned himself into a weapon on defense. He finished 2019 with 4.0 sacks, 44 tackles, a forced fumble, and an interception. He will finish out his two year deal this season, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him get another two-to-three year deal next offseason.
Fringe Roster Guys
I expect the Patriots to keep six of the players on the defensive line. So that leaves only one spot for the three players in this tier, all of which are Patriot veterans.
Byron Cowart — Cowart is my leader in the clubhouse to grab that last spot on the defensive line. He is a guy with clear talent (No. 1 overall recruit in 2015) who showed a ton of grown in college and in his transition to the pros. His story is a pretty inspiring one, I suggest any Pats fan read up on it. He only played five games last season but has the edge in positional versatility over the next two entries. Cowart is unproven but that may be an advantage because you pretty much know what you're getting out of the next two guys.
Derek Rivers — This was a hard one. Belichick must see something big in Rivers. He has wasted no time in getting rid of high draft picks in recent years (Cyrus Jones, Duke Dawson, Dominique Easley) but has stuck with Rivers for three-plus seasons now. In those three seasons Rivers has played six of a possible 55 (FIFTY FIVE) games, and finished two of them on injured reserve. I doubt he has a shot of making this roster even IF he makes it through camp, but Belichick sees what we don’t.
Deatrich Wise Jr. — I’d like to start this entry by pointing out just how wonderful Deatrich’s smile is.
That being said, if I see him commit one more hands to the face penalty I might quit watching football. He was a nice surprise his rookie year and followed that up with a solid sophomore campaign, but in 2019 his sack numbers dipped considerably and the penalties rose. He was tied with J.C. Jackson and Julian Edelman for the team lead with seven. One of those things is not like the other. With a steady decline in his game over three seasons he’s going to have to have a very productive and healthy training camp to make the team again.
Bill Murray — UDFA out of William and Mary with a sick stache. Read about him here.
Nick Coe — Another UDFA, played college ball at Auburn. I considered him for a fringe roster guy but the other guys have made the team before so it didn’t feel right. Read my UDFA profile on him here.
Tashawn Bower — Bower certainly looks the part. Standing at 6’5” and weighing 250 lbs he is a prototypical NFL DE. He has even made two NFL rosters in Minnesota in 2017 and 2018. He finished last season on the Patriots practice squad and was signed to a futures contract in January. He faces an uphill battle but should get a good amount of reps in camp.
Nick Thurman — Thurman has spent time on three separate offseason rosters (Houston, Tampa Bay, New England) but has never cracked the final 53. The odds don’t favor Thurman but crazier things have happened. DT depth is pretty thin and he may be one or two injuries away from a spot on the team.
Camp Body (No Chance in Hell)
Courtney Wallace — This is absolutely unfair to Courtney Wallace. I feel he has the same chance to make the roster as Bower and Thurman but needed to put someone on the No Chance list. The other two guys have proved they can stick around and Wallace simply has not. It's not you Courtney, it’s me...
No Chance List
- Brian Lewerke
- Gunner Olszewski
- Sean Riley
- Isaiah Zuber
- Devin Ross
- Najee Toran
- Courtney Wallace
That is it for this episode of the Tier series. Tell me what you think in the comments or find me over on twitter @KeaganStiefel. We will be back with the linebackers next week.