FOXBORO, Mass. — It’s easy to spot Dominique Easley on the New England Patriots’ front seven. He’s the first player off the line at the snap.
Easley is living up to his full potential through five weeks this season after his rookie year was cut short and hampered by injuries. Easley looks as explosive as ever, and he’s causing disruption against the run and pass because of his explosive first step.
“As far as my abilities, yeah, that was always an advantage for me,” Easley said about how quickly he can fire off the line of scrimmage.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick agrees.
“Well, I think that’s definitely a strength of his,” Belichick said. “He’s a very explosive player, and he does have very good initial quickness. A lot of times he wins right off the bat on the play — first, second step. I think as a coach you can improve everything, so I think we can improve that with every player. But obviously some players have it at an elite level, some players have it at an average level, and some players have it at a below-average level. You can still improve it, but I don’t think you’re necessarily going to go from below average to elite. But you could go from good to very good or below average to average or whatever. So yeah, it can be improved, but some guys do it at a very high level and other guys, you know, they have other strengths.”
Is Easley’s first step elite?
“I think that’s a strength of his game, yeah,” Belichick said.
Even Easley can’t explain where it comes from.
“I really didn’t work on it,” Easley said. “It came from high school. It’s just been there from high school. I can’t tell you exactly where it comes from, it’s just there. I can’t tell you I do this to do that. It’s just there.”
Scouts took notice of the initial quickness when Easley was coming out of Florida. One scout told NESN.com Easley’s first step is “excellent to rare.” The same scout noted Easley’s strong use of his hands.
“He lands with them to shock linemen,” the scout said. “He’s more disruptive than productive.”
Easley fell to the Patriots at No. 29 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft because he tore both of his ACLs during his career at Florida. He likely would have been a top-15 draft pick if he was healthy coming out of college, and he wouldn’t have fallen out of the first round if the Patriots didn’t select him. A source indicated at the time that the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers were going to select him if the Patriots didn’t, and that the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys were interested in trading down in the first round to select him.
Taking a risk on Easley is certainly panning out for the Patriots so far. He was dominant against the Jacksonville Jagaurs and Indianapolis Colts and has nine total pressures on the season with 0.5 sacks and four quarterback hits. He’ll need to keep producing if linebacker Dont’a Hightower (ribs) and defensive end Jabaal Sheard (ankle) miss more time with injuries.
Thumbnail photo via Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports Images