Patriots questions: Where's the linebacker depth?

Patriots questions: Where's the linebacker depth?
May 19, 2014, 3:15 pm
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There are teams facing questions. And then there are teams facing decisions. The Patriots face decisions. They don’t have to puzzle over who will do what for them in 2014. They know their quarterback and head coach. They know who their best defensive and offensive players will be. They have starting-caliber players at every spot. They know – before Memorial Day even arrives – that winning fewer than 10 games and missing the playoffs is a virtual impossibility. So with that in mind, we look at a brief list of decisions that need to be reached. This next question involves a unit that is top heavy but lacking in backups.

There’s a lot to like about the top of the Patriots linebacker depth chart. Jerod Mayo, Don’t’a Hightower and Jamie Collins, who built momentum late in 2013, are a terrific core. But run-stopping depth is needed with Brandon Spikes gone. So too is a third-down backer with coverage skills to come on for as Dane Fletcher was positioned to do in the past. The interesting additions the Patriots have made this offseason are Josh Hull – a five-year veteran who goes 6-3, 245 – and Darius Fleming, a 6-2, 248-pounder signed last week. Hull was a seventh-round choice in 2010 and has been mostly a special teams player. Fleming was a fifth-rounder in 2012 who has blown the ACLs in both knees the past two seasons and was released by the Niners. The Patriots scooped Fleming up. Apparently, blowing both ACLs is a strong selling point for the Patriots this spring. In addition to those two, there’s an avalanche of JAGs – Steve Beauharnais, JaGared Davis, Gordon Cameron, James Morris, Deontae Skinner and Chris White – that the team will roll through. The Patriots will need to ID the best guys to backup their best guys.

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