Patriots Defensive Tackle Roster Reset: Malcom Brown Should See Big Role

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May 5, 2015

Malcom Brown will grow accustomed to hearing the name Vince Wilfork. Innumerable comparisons will be drawn between the two players by the time Brown’s rookie season is wrapped up.

Brown essentially is replacing Wilfork on the New England Patriots’ roster, so it’s natural to draw similarities between the Patriots’ 2015 32nd overall pick and the 12-year veteran.

Wilfork elected to sign with the Houston Texans after the Patriots decided against picking up his contract option, and now Brown has massive shoes to fill.

Expecting Brown to be Wilfork from Day 1 — at least from a run-stopping perspective — would be insane. Wilfork was a master at anchoring against double teams, while Brown likely will need to pack on some extra bulk before that’s his top responsibility in the Patriots’ defense.

Until that happens, Brown likely will be moved around and rotated in and out of the Patriots’ defensive line. Fortunately, the former Longhorn has proven to have versatility, playing all along Texas’ defense line even with a 6-foot-2, 319-pound build.

Brown was more disruptive in the run game than as a pass rusher at Texas, but some of those skills could translate with NFL coaching. Even Texas head coach Charlie Strong said during NFL Network’s draft coverage that Brown “hasn’t scratched the surface.”

Brown likely will rotate at defensive tackle with incumbent Patriots Sealver Siliga, Alan Branch, Dominique Easley and Chris Jones. Undrafted free agent Vince Taylor also is in the mix, and 2014 draft pick Zach Moore is looking a little heavier this offseason, so perhaps a position switch from defensive end to defensive tackle is in the cards. Moore’s athleticism might be better suited for an inside role, and the Patriots just signed Jabaal Sheard over the offseason and added three edge rushers in the draft in Geneo Grisson, Trey Flowers and Matthew Wells.

Taylor has appealing athleticism, but he faces an uphill battle to make the roster with more experienced players ahead of him on the depth chart.

Easley should be fun to watch in 2015 after a tumultuous rookie season. He played in 11 games and earned 270 snaps but didn’t make much of an impact, recording just 11 total pressures. Easley missed the entire preseason, however, and he was limited throughout training camp. A full offseason should help him greatly in living up to his potential in his second season.

The Patriots definitely have some upside along their interior defensive line with Brown, Easley and Siliga representing the future. Brown could earn a starting role from Day 1, but in the Patriots’ defensive line, it doesn’t really matter if he earns that specific label.

The Patriots rotate their defensive line frequently, and without Wilfork, that rotation is likely to become more frequent. Most importantly, Brown has the versatility to play in the Patriots’ base and sub-package defense, and he has experience in three- and four-man fronts, so there shouldn’t be a giant learning curve for the first-round pick.

Thumbnail photo via Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports Images

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