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Patriots Defensive Line Analysis and Morse’s Morsels

Mark Morse
Mark Morse on Twitter
4 weeks ago at 11:56 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots News

Patriots Defensive Line Analysis and Morse’s MorselsDavid Butler II - USA TODAY Sports

This week I will concentrate on the Defensive Line.  Last season the Defensive Line was shredded by the season’s end.  They had more holes than Swiss cheese.  To me, the only shining light was Christian Barmore.  The Patriots spent a late draft pick on Sam Roberts and didn’t invest any high draft capital to improve the Defensive Line.  The defense is very susceptible to Offenses that play no-huddle.  No huddle does not allow the Patriots’ defense to make the changes it wants to meet the down-and-distance situation.

Davon Godchaux

Godchaux is entering his 6th season after being a 2017 5th-round draft pick out of LSU by the Miami Dolphins.  The soon to be 28 yo stands 6’3”, 311lbs.  As a true nose tackle, Godchaux is not expected to make tackles but is supposed to occupy blockers and let the LB make the plays.   Godchaux made 65 tackles, the 2nd most in his career and he played in every game, starting 16.  There were high expectations for Godchaux when he signed as a Free Agent.  Perhaps they were too high for the unglamorous position he plays.  By season’s end, he was getting blown off the line in single blocking by O-linemen.  This needs to improve in 2022.

Lawrence Guy

Guy is the old man of the Defensive Line.  This will be his 12th season in the NFL.  At 32, there are not too many veterans his age or older that are still playing.  At 6’ 4”, 315 lbs, Guy plays the LDE/DT in the Patriots’ defensive alignments.  His 60 tackles were the 2nd highest of his career.  Like Godchaux, it was more a product of the team being unable to get the Defense off the field.  When the Patriots go to a pass-rushing situation, Guy comes off the field.  There was no considerable drop-off in his play, but he is 32 and he won’t be getting any better.  Guy is a tremendous leader on the team and in the community and is well-liked by his fellow players, ownership, and the Patriots fans.

Christian Barmore 

I was wrong about Christian Barmore.  In my pre-draft writings last year I was down on Barmore and I perceived him as a lazy player.  I panned the selection of Barmore, especially trading up to get him.  OK, I was wrong!  From the moment he arrived in Foxboro, there was never any hint of an unmotivated, fat, lazy player.  He said and did everything right and showed in pre-season games and practices just what he was made of.  He was a godsend to a Dline desperate for some youth infusion.  His play earned him a spot on the All-Rookie team.  I can’t wait to see what he will do in year 2 in the system.  He will probably be the 3rd DT in the 3-4 alignment.  I would not be surprised to see him in the game on passing downs as well.

Henry Anderson

I had high hopes for Anderson when we signed him to a two-year Free Agent contract away from the Jets.  I was impressed with his play against us when we played the Jets and thought he would be a good sub addition.  Anderson disappointed me in the Training Camp and Pre-season and then suffered an injury.  The soon to be 30 yo, stands 6’6”, 302 lbs, and was a 3rd round pick of the Colts in 2015.  The Stanford grad tore a pectoral muscle in week 4 and was out for the season.  In 2020 for the Jets he had 42 tackles but dropped to only 4 in the 4 games he appeared for the Pats.  I think he will have a difficult time making the team.

Byron Cowart

Cowart was a 5th round pick of the Patriots out of the University of Maryland in 2019.   The 6’3” 300 lb D lineman spent two years at Auburn, went to Community College for a season, then transferred to Maryland for his final year.  The Patriots took a chance on him and he showed promise.  In 2020 he had 27 tackles in 14 games as the RDT.  He was out with COVID for 2 weeks but was re-instated.  In 2021 he ended up on Physically Unable to Play list and out for the entire 2021 season.  Can Cowart come back to the form he showed in 2020?

Bill Murray 

Murray is a feel-good, try-hard story, but he just doesn’t have the physical gifts and size other D-linemen have.  He played at William and Mary and stands 6’ 4” and 300 lbs.  One of his problems is he has a hard time keeping his weight on.  Wikipedia listed him at 265 lbs.  The numbers he put up at William and Mary were impressive with 142 career tackles in three years but the most impressive was his 10 blocked kicks.  He has spent two years on the Patriots Practice Squad.  I was surprised he re-signed with the team this year.  I don’t think there is a place for him on the final roster.  At best I think he is an emergency reserve on the Practice Squad.   He also lettered in Lacrosse at William and Mary.  You know how Bill loves those lacrosse players.

Dan Ekuale

Ekuale was a big surprise last season.  He was signed to the Practice Squad a week after his release by Jacksonville on the cutdown day.  During the 2021 seasons, he has been re-called a total of 8 times from the Practice Squad and elevated to the 53-man roster.  Immediately after the games, he was sent back to the Practice Squad.  He made 5 tackles, and 2 were sacks.  He showed the ability to be disruptive and get upfield.  The American Samoan stands 6’3” and 300 lbs.  He played his college ball at Washington State.  In 2018 he was an undrafted signee by Cleveland who released him at the cutdown and re-signed him to the Practice Squad.  He was suspended for the last 4 games of 2018 for violation of the league drug policy.  In 2019 he made the Browns final roster and had 4 tackles in 7 games.  In 2020 he was a final cutdown casualty but was immediately signed to the Jacksonville Practice Squad.  They elevated him for 9 games that season where he ended up with 13 tackles and a sack.  It was announced by the NFL that Ekuale will serve a 2 games suspension in 2022 for an undisclosed reason.  I am intrigued by what Ekuale can do this season.  He will need to make the 53-man roster, then he will be suspended.  The Patriots can fill his spot after the 53-man roster is established.  I have been writing about a shadow roster with as many as 4 veteran players cut, only to be re-signed after the 53-man roster is established.

Deatrich Wise

Wise is a veteran leader of the team.  A 2017 4th-round draft pick by the Patriots, the soon to be 28 yo is entering his 6th season with the Pats.  Wise stands 6’ 5” and weighs just 275.  He is listed as a DT but is too light for the position on a regular basis.  He is nothing but a situational pass rusher.  If teams go no-huddle on the Pats, they can’t get their situational players into the game.  If they go light in a nickel or dime package, the oppositions just run on the Pats.  He only had 3 sacks and 41 tackles for the year.   Wise has been very durable over his career missing just two games.  Can the Patriots do better at this position?  Yes, but that person is not on this roster at this time.

Carl Davis 

Davis is a big-bodied NT that is too often hurt.  Last season the 6’5” 315lbs didn’t establish himself as the true Nose Tackle.  He has the size.  A 2015 3rd-round selection by the Ravens has never lived up to his high draft slot.  Davis had his most successful season with 19 tackles in 17 games.  He did manage 4 starts but his career has been yoyo. He was limited in his playing time as a rookie.  He missed the entire 2016 season with an ankle injury.  In 2018 he was waived at the cutdown date and signed by Cleveland but played minimally with no production.  In 2019 he was released at cutdown and signed and released by Indianapolis.  Finished the season with Jacksonville.  Started 2020 being suspended by the league for violating the drug policy.  He was assigned to the Practice Squad by Jacksonville.  NE signed him off Jacksonville Practice Squad on October 20th.  The Patriots put him on IR on Nov 28th with a concussion and he missed the remains of the season.  Patriots signed him to a one-year contract in 2021 and then again on April 27th, 2022.  He was a late Free Agent signee with the Pats.  I suspect that was heath related.  It’s anyone’s guess if the 30 yo will make the team.

Sam Roberts

Roberts was the only DL taken in this year’s draft by the Patriots in the 6th round.  The D2 Defensive Player of the Year played his college ball at Northwest Missouri State.  The 6’ 5”, 293 lbs DT had 62 tackles, 18 for a loss, and 6.5 sacks this past season at a lower level of competition.  Roberts had an interesting side job while playing football.  He was a Certified Nurses Aid at a local Nursing Home.  Robert’s play during Training Camp and Pre-season games will determine if he can make the team.  Kyle Dugger won the same award (Cliff Harris Trophy) as D2 Defensive POY.

LaBryan Ray

Ray has always had the talent as evident by his recruitment and play at Alabama.  The question has been can he stay healthy.  Injuries have derailed him every year at Alabama.  It will be interesting to see what he can do in Training Camp and Pre-season.  At worst he will get a season on the Practice Squad if he can pass through waivers.  I am afraid he might make the team and get injured as he has for 4 straight seasons.   The6’5” 295 lbs DE was a five-star recruit.  His best season was 2018 when he had 39 tackles in 13 games.  In 2019 he played only 5 games a lower leg injury knocked him out for the year.  Last season he only had 11 tackles in 11 games.  Alabama was loaded and that may be the reason he didn’t play much.

Demarcus Mitchell

Mitchell was a late Undrafted Free Agent signee.  The 6’2” 240 lb player was listed as a linebacker at Purdue, but he has been listed as a D-lineman with the Patriots.  In the COVID shortened season (6 games) Mitchell had 34 tackles of which 22 were solo tackles.  He transferred to Missouri from Southwest Mississippi CC.  He is a limited player that is athletic and needs time to develop.  That sounds like a trip to the Practice Squad if he shows anything in the Camp and Pre-season.

Morse’s Morsels

Robert Kraft has been nominated as a semi-finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Veterans Committee in the category of Contributor.  He is one of 29 nominees in 2023 that also includes former Patriots executive Frank “Bucko” Kilroy.  Kraft was instrumental as a broker during the strike negotiations and as a member of the TV committee which improved the revenues of each and every one of the owners.  I would not be at all surprised if Kraft is selected for the Hall of Fame.

The Veterans Committee also nominated Stanley Morgan as one of the 23 players nominated for the veteran players’ slot.   Former Sports Illustrated Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman has been railing for Morgan’s ascension to the Hall since 2007.  In this 2007 article, https://www.si.com/more-sports/2007/11/09/hall-offame Zimmerman states the Hall is empty without the inclusion of Stanley Morgan.  He makes a very convincing argument.  Zimmerman points out that for the first 6 seasons of his career Morgan averaged 22.6 yards per catch and in no year did the average go below 20.9 yards per catch.  No receiver has done that since Morgan.

Training Camp

The 1st practice is on Wednesday, July 27th (TBD).  Follow https://www.patriots.com/trainingcamp/ for more info on Training Camp, especially the time and if Practice is going to be moved inside for weather or just changes in Practice.  The 1st 4 days of open practice are scheduled through Sat July 30th (All Times TBD).  The team also announced joint practice with Carolina Panthers is open to the public on August 16th and 17th (Time TBD).

I still have fond memories of attending my first Training Camp with my father back in the 60s.  It was at Phillips Academy in Andover.  Yes, the same Phillips Academy where a young Bill Belichick and Ernie Adams met and reviewed game films together.  Back then the Boston Patriots played 6 Pre-season games and training camp was longer.  The players weren’t making much money back then and needed off-season jobs to make ends meet.  They were not training all year long either and needed the prolonged pre-season to get into shape.  I was a wide-eyed kid that thought they were all giants.  No offense to the players of that era, but they are midgets compared to today’s players.  If a lineman was 285 lbs he was big.  If you have the opportunity it’s well worth it to take in a practice, especially if you are taking your son or daughter.  Admission is free and it’s advised you get there early to get a good seat.

Renegades’ Latest Boston Dynasty

The Boston Renegades, the Women’s Football Alliance 2022 won the championship with a 36-12 win over Minneapolis.  The game was played in Canton Ohio at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame field last Saturday.  This is the 4th consecutive championship and the 7th overall for the Renegades.  They currently have a 34-game win streak.   These women are fantastic athletes.  One of those athletes is Chandre` Bonds of Brockton.   She plays both sides of the ball at cornerback safety on Defense and then wide receiver, running back, and kick returner.  On Saturday she filled in for Quarterback Allison Cahill who was out with an ankle injury and led the Renegades to the Championship.   That’s not the first time she had done that.  Back in 2016, Bonds stepped in for Cahill who was out with a shoulder injury.   Bonds was the 2018 WFA Most Valuable Player and MVP of the Championship game.  In 2017 she was recognized by WFA as the Defensive Player of the Year.  Bonds was a terrific High School basketball player at Brockton and went on to star at Bentley.  She helped them advance to the NCAA Division II Final Four in 2003.  She was named Northeast 10 conference Defensive Player of the Year.

Robert Kraft congratulated the team by telephone immediately after the game in the locker room.  He invited the team to celebrate at Gillette Stadium with the Patriots at the August 11th Pre-season game.   Kraft flew the team out to Canton on the Patriots team plane.

The Boston area has a strong history of women’s football.  The Renegades are made up of elements from predecessor teams, Boston Militia, New England Intensity, Bay State Warriors, Boston Rampage, and Massachusetts Mutiny.

Allison Cahill is a 13-year veteran of Woman’s Football.

Since beginning to play professional women’s football in 2003, Cahill has been about as close to Tom Brady as you can get on the field.  She has won 4 MVP awards.

With the Boston Renegades’ fourth straight win in the WFA’s National Championship on Saturday night at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, Cahill will win her sixth ring as a pro and a fourth straight with the Renegades. Entering this season, Cahill had already thrown for more than 20,000 yards and won 130+ games.

A former standout athlete at Uxbridge High School and then Princeton, Cahill was a 1,000-point scorer at Princeton.

The Renegades play their home games out of Harry della Russo Stadium in Revere.


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Posted Under: Patriots News
Tags: Byron Cowart Carl Davis Christian Barmore Dan Ekuale Davon Godchaux Deatrich Wise Demarcus Mitchell Henry Anderson LaBryan Ray Lawrence Guy Sam Roberts


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