The Patriots defense has seen some additions this off-season, but nothing overly significant.
After the team had big name free-agent defensive ends Dwight Freeney and John Abraham in for visits back at the start of free-agency, they've signed neither. Freeney moved on to the Chargers while Abraham is still on the market.
While some CFL products have been added to that defensive line, the best pass-rusher remains Chandler Jones. And because of that, he's got a lot more pressure riding on him in his sophomore season.
Perhaps sensing that, Jones has arrived at OTAs packing a lot more muscle, and has even been playing a different position when the Patriots moved to a 3-4 defense.
Flanked to Vince Wilfork’s left was amazon Tommy Kelly, the 6-foot-6, 325-pound defensive tackle signed as a free agent after being released from Oakland. When Kelly was brought aboard in April, you could almost picture that duo being placed side-by-side up front.
So, who was on Wilfork’s right?
The times the Pats were in a 3-4 base, Wilfork had 6-5, 260-pound Chandler Jones lined up on the inside next to him at right defensive end. So he was playing the role of Richard Seymour in this particular three-man front.
An interesting trio, isn’t it?
If Jones has the same smaller build as last year, he'd fit more as an outside linebacker, an edge rusher, similar to his role as a 4-3 defensive end. However, moving onto the line alongside Vince Wilfork in a 3-4 is a huge change. It's that kind of versatility that Belichick must love.
It also might give the Patriots some of that inside pass rush they've been so desperately wanting the past few years. You saw signs they were looking for that when they signed Albert Haynesworth.
Having a guy next to Wilfork that can rush the passer will have a huge trickle down effect. Teams already have to pay so much attention to Wilfork in the middle and if they had a guy that could take advantage of all that attention and get to the quarterback, everything changes.
Still, this is OTAs and it remains to be seen how much of this will translate into the regular season. The Patriots have always been more of a multiple defense, so them practicing in the 3-4 isn't all that surprising. If Jones can perform well from that spot though, it could be a great benefit to himself and the team's pass rush as a whole.