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As part of a preview for New England Patriots training camp (first practice July 30) and to refamiliarize ourselves with the roster, it’s time to bring back the “checking the locks” series. Today, we finish the series with off-the-line linebackers:
Sure-fire locks: Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Jerod Mayo
On the bubble: Darius Fleming, Jonathan Freeny, Dane Fletcher, James Morris, Matt Wells, Chris White
Trying to get in the door: Eric Martin, Dekoda Watson, D.J. Lynch
Analysis: While the top three on the depth chart are solidified — with the primary question whether Mayo (patellar tendon) and Hightower (labrum) have any lingering effects from significant surgeries — there is plenty of uncertainty with the backups. The Patriots explored a handful of free-agent possibilities to add some experienced linebackers this offseason, and ultimately signed Brandon Spikes, but he’s since been released after an off-field incident involving an abandoned car. So there’s still a void of sorts to fill there, and Fleming, Freeny, Fletcher and White have mostly been special-teamers, with Wells — the sixth-round pick from Mississippi State — projecting to that type of role as well. Morris, a second-year player out of Iowa who spent last year on injured reserve after signing as an undrafted free agent, remains a bit of a wild card. He was leading the defensive huddle at times in spring practices and has some upside.
Checking the locks 2015
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