BROCKTON, Mass. — The 2014 New England Patriots aren’t trying to be negative — just realistic. Very few players are stone-cold locks to make the 2014 roster, and the competition between the rest of the Patriots should only make the team better as a unit.
Defensive tackle is one of the more crowded positions as the Patriots are now more than midway through organized team activities, and despite recording six sacks during a tumultuous rookie season in 2013, Chris Jones knows that he’s still competing for a roster spot this offseason.
“Oh yeah. In that respect, I’m still very aware of what I need to do,” Jones said Saturday after Kevin Faulk’s Celebrity Softball Game at Campanelli Stadium. “I know it’s going to be a competition all the way throughout. I’ve got to make sure I’m doing whatever I can to get the upper edge as much as possible.”
First-round draft pick Dominique Easley is a lock to make the team, but there’s an outside chance he starts the season on the non-football injury list after suffering a torn ACL at Florida last season (he has yet to be spotted at OTAs). Veterans Vince Wilfork (torn Achilles) and Tommy Kelly (torn ACL) also are returning from injuries. Both players readjusted their contracts this offseason, and Wilfork’s suggests he’s more of a lock to crack the Week 1 roster.
Jones likely will be competing with Kelly, Armond Armstead, Sealver Siliga, Joe Vellano and L.T. Tuipulotu for one, two or three roster spots. The second-year pro’s goal during the offseason was to compete with the rest of his defensive line group athletically.
“Really just trying to get bigger, stronger, faster, better shape,” Jones said. “Getting out there — these guys are all top end athletes, so you’ve got to make sure you’re ready to go.”
Jones received praise as a rookie from his teammates and coaches when he quickly caught on with the Patriots — after being waived by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — before Week 2. Jones was drafted by the Houston Texans, who tried to claim him after he was cut by the Buccaneers but couldn’t due to a league rule, in the sixth round (No. 198 overall) of the 2013 NFL draft.
Jones started 11 games for the Patriots despite catching on with the team after training camp, and he had five sacks through five games before his numbers started slowing down. Jones’ run-stopping ability increased throughout the year, though, and he’s trying to make a Year 2 leap.
“I’ve heard it from a few people that first to second year is a big chance to make a big jump skill wise,” Jones said. “I’m trying to take full advantage of it.”