By: Andrew Ludwig (@patriotsmadness)
Vince Wilfork will be the biggest player returning for the Patriot's defensive line. He is not only the anchor of the defensive line, but he is a leader on the defense and is able to pull his squad together when they need it most. Look for him to come back strong this year.
Tommy Kelly was the second defensive tackle that the Patriot's lost last year, and if both of them can return back to their usual form, they both will be able to be strong contributors along the defensive front. Kelly will add great depth and the Patriot's will not lose much when he goes into replace Vince for a few plays.
Chandler Jones came through big for the Patriot's last season, recording 11.5 sacks. If he play with the tenacity that he played with last season, he will see that number increase with a much stronger secondary. Quarterback's will be holding on the ball later and he will be able to be solely responsible for rushing the QB with the help of Vince stopping the run.
Rob Ninkovich has been a true unsung hero for the Patriot's defense. He never generates a whole lot of buzz around him but he is a strong key to their success. Totaling 91 tacked and 8 sacks last season, he is true versatile player that can do almost anything along the defensive line. He will be another consistent strong contributor.
Dominique Easley, the Patriot's first round draft pick drew a lot of mixed reactions from fans and analysts. If Easley had been consistently healthy he would have been a top 15 pick, but two knee injuries kept him from showing his full potential. If he can stay healthy this season look for him to burst onto the scene and make a huge impact. He has all the physical tools and smarts to be an extremely effective player.
Will Smith was a late free agent pickup for the Patriot's but will look to add depth and experience to the defensive line. He will add solid competition along the defensive line during the summer months of training camp.
Joe Vellano and Sealver Siliga were both players that reaped the benefits of Kelly and Wilfork going down with injury. They were able to step up and hold their own as starters along the defensive line. Both obtained valuable game playing experience and now are solid back ups that will look to be role players for the Patriot's this season.