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The New England Patriots’ 2022 training camp is right around the corner. On Wednesday, the team will reconvene at Gillette Stadium to kick off its next level of preparation for the upcoming season — and all that goes with it: full-contact practices, camp competitions, joint sessions, you name it.
Leading up to this year’s camp, we will take a look at all position groups on New England’s roster to give you some idea about the key actors, battles and storylines at each of them. Today, we will continue along the defensive line.
The Patriots’ defensive line stayed largely intact compared to the 2021 unit — both on the field and within the coaching ranks. The only substantial changes were the release of fourth-year man Byron Cowart as well as the additions of a few rookie players. In total, 11 D-linemen are currently on New England’s roster:
The Patriots have plenty of experience along their defensive line, even though not all of those veterans are actual locks to make the roster. Still, Davon Godchaux, Deatrich Wise Jr., Lawrence Guy, Henry Anderson, Carl Davis and Daniel Ekuale all have several years of NFL football on their respective résumés.
The young talent within the group also cannot be disregarded, with one player in particular standing out: Christian Barmore, who delivered an impressive rookie season in 2021. Behind him, Sam Roberts, Bill Murray, LaBryan Ray and Jeremiah Pharms Jr. offer developmental depth.
Henry Anderson vs. Sam Roberts vs. LaBryan Ray vs. Jeremiah Pharms Jr.: Anderson was brought aboard last offseason to bolster the 3- and 5-technique positions, but he missed most of the year on injured reserve. Now, he will get another chance to prove himself but it will not be easy: sixth-round rookie Sam Roberts and undrafted free agents LaBryan Ray and Jeremiah Pharms Jr. will give him a run for his (recently restructured) money. Only one of the four ending up on the team would not be a surprise; it is entirely possible that all four get cut, though.
Daniel Ekuale vs. Carl Davis vs. Bill Murray: Ekuale, Davis and Murray are all in the same situation as the group above, even though they have more combined experience in New England’s system. Additionally, they are projected more on the inside — i.e. between the nose and 3-technique spots — than the others. Unless the Patriots decide to make any surprise cuts near the top of the depth chart, no more than one or two of them will be able to make the team.
Will Christian Barmore make the second-year jump? Barmore played some impressive football last season and is entering Year 2 with plenty of momentum on his side and in a position to make the famous performance jump associated with second-year players. Him being able to indeed show those improvements would be big for New England’s defense as a whole, and training camp is the first real chance for any such progress to manifest itself.
Will there be any surprise cuts? On paper, four members of the Patriots’ defensive line crew are locked into their roster spots: Barmore, Davon Godchaux, Deatrich Wise Jr. and Lawrence Guy. The latter is the group’s most experienced player, but as opposed to the other three no entirely safe bet to make the team. Not only is Guy 32 and coming off a comparatively up-and-down season, releasing him would also create $3.25 million in cap savings.
Which, if any, rookies will emerge? The Patriots did not make significant investments during the draft or rookie free agency to bolster their D-line: Sam Roberts was selected in Round 6 with LaBryan Ray signed as a UDFA. They later also added Jeremiah Pharms Jr., who left the college ranks in 2019 but has only now signed an NFL deal. Out of the three, Roberts appears to be the most likely candidate to make an impact this season.