We're breaking down the personnel and pecking order at each position as the Patriots prepare to open camp this week.
Jerod Mayo, Donta Hightower, Jamie Collins, James Anderson, Josh Hull, Chris White, Steve Beauharnais, Darius Fleming, Cameron Gordon, Ja’Gared Davis, Taylor McCuller, Deontae Skinner
The top three are pretty clear: Mayo in the middle, Hightower on the strong side, Collins on the weak side. A little bit of blitzing for Hightower and Mayo if the scheme changes. A lot of coverage for Collins. What the Patriots are missing from 2013 is the thumping run-stopper that Brandon Spikes brought. He was a flake. He guessed wrong. He couldn’t cover a potted plant. But he brought extreme attitude and force to the second-level. James Anderson, a free agent signee from the Bears who had 102 tackles last season will be in the mix as will Josh Hull, a former Redskin signed for short money. A player to watch coming up is Deontae Skinner, a three-year starter at Mississippi State who’s 6-1, 250. Different size than Spikes but a well-respected player. Another rookie, Cameron Gordon from Michigan, made 15 starts last season for the Wolverines. He’s a versatile player. And Darius Fleming, a fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame in 2012 (49ers) has good size for the middle as well. Special teams contributions will be significantly weighed with all the players in this group.