With the incredible roster turnover throughout the past two years, there is one name that is forgotten by a large majority of Patriots fans; this player is none other than Tyrone McKenzie.
With all of the hype surrounding Brandon Spikes the past few months, many forget the excitement revolving around the third round pick just one year ago. McKenzie is a man who does not lack self confidence, comparing himself to Ray Lewis as a player his playing style most resembles, but his unfortunate ACL tear during rookie mini camp last year put an end to the excitement illustrated by him, the fans, and the coaching staff.
He is a guy who has been faced with obstacles in his life before transferring twice in college to be closer to his mother while she struggled with health issues. McKenzie first played at Michigan State where he played in 11 games. After sitting out an NCAA season to transfer to Iowa State, he led the team for tackles with 129. Finally, he transferred to the last destination of his collegiate career to the University of South Florida. There he led the bulls in tackles for two consecutive years before being selected 97th overall by the New England Patriots in 2009.
McKenzie listed at 6’2” and 245 pounds, and is slated to play middle linebacker for the Patriots, although he did also play outside in college. However, with Bill Belichick’s mold for outside linebackers held to standards of around 6’4” and 265 lbs, his options could be limited. Nevertheless, with the outside linebacker position dangerously thin and the entire defense under construction, Belichick may choose to experiment in certain defensive situations.
As many media members and fans like to envision Mayo and Spikes in the middle of the Patriots defense, there are still questions regarding if Spikes has the speed to play in the NFL. If he proves he can be the thumper that many experts believe he could develop into, than I would definitely experiment with McKenzie outside. I believe his tenacity and mentality could be used in nickel situations to get after the quarterback. If he can learn to “set the edge” as Belichick likes his outside linebackers to do, McKenzie could be a force on the outside.
At the end of the day however, no one knows besides Bill Belichick what shape the defense will take once the season begins and where players will be slotted. There is a lot of potential at the middle linebacker position, and if all works out well for Patriots fans and coaches, the team could have flexibility come September.