Patriots Mailbag: Terrance Knighton Adds Starting-Caliber Talent On Defense

The New England Patriots certainly haven’t been tentative since free agency began March 9.

The Patriots didn’t have many holes heading into the offseason, and they’ve more than filled them by adding starting-caliber talents in defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, tight end Martellus Bennett, defensive end Chris Long, linebacker Shea McClellin, guard Jonathan Cooper and wide receiver Chris Hogan.

Knighton will battle Alan Branch for a starting role on the Patriots’ defensive line next to second-year pro Malcom Brown. Knighton likely will line up on early downs in the Patriots defense, playing to his strengths as a run defender. Knighton is the size of a nose tackle at 6-foot-3, 354 pounds, but he has the athleticism and versatility to do damage on passing downs, as well.

The Patriots seem like they’re going all-in this offseason as they push for a fifth Super Bowl title.

Before the Patriots add another high-profile veteran, let’s get into this week’s mailbag.

@DougKyed what are some realistic expectations for Bennett this year?
— @AlexJArmstrong
Since Martellus Bennett likely won’t play 100 percent of the Patriots’ offensive snaps, let’s set the bar at last season’s totals: 53 catches, 439 yards and three touchdowns. He certainly has the potential to put up similar stats to his 2014 season, when he caught 90 passes for 916 yards with six touchdowns. Aaron Hernandez was able to put up similar numbers when the Patriots deployed a two-tight end offense in 2011.

@DougKyed who’s the best fit in the draft for the pats at receiver and corner ?
— @Flashy_BFIRE
The best overall athletic fit for the Patriots at wide receiver is Braxton Miller. He ran a 4.43-second 40-yard dash at Ohio State’s pro day and had a 6.65-second three-cone, 4.07-second short shuttle, 35-inch vertical leap and 10-foot, 3-inch broad jump at 6-foot-1, 201 pounds.

Other good fits are Clemson’s Charone Peake, Cincinnati’s Johnny Holton, Tennessee’s Marquez North, Georgia’s Malcolm Mitchell and California’s Trevor Davis.

Maryland’s Sean Davis, who is widely considered a safety but also played cornerback in college, checks every athletic box for the Patriots. He ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash with a 6.64-second three-cone, 3.97-second short shuttle, 37.5-inch vertical and 10-foot, 6-inch broad jump at 6-foot-1, 201 pounds.

LSU’s Jalen Mills, Baylor’s Xavien Howard, North Carolina Central’s Ryan Smith and Alabama’s Cyrus Jones also are fits.

@DougKyed draft Which running backs are the Patriots focusing on in the draft?
— @JimGilhooly1957
I don’t know which running backs the Patriots are focusing on, but based on a combination of size, athleticism and ball security, Arizona State’s D.J. Foster, Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott, Georgia’s Keith Marshall, Alabama’s Derrick Henry, Indiana’s Jordan Howard and South Carolina’s Brandon Wilds are the best fits.

Elliott and Henry likely will be gone by the time the Patriots are picking, and Foster could be viewed as a wide receiver instead of a running back. That leaves Howard, Marshall and Wilds as potential Patriots additions in the early and late rounds.

@DougKyed Picard or Kirk?
— @Akylle
Han Solo.

@DougKyed Tackle has to be NE’s first pick, right?
— @hollis_jesse
Offensive tackle remains the Patriots’ biggest need in the draft, because they’re presumably looking for a future starter at the position. Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer likely will start in 2016, but Vollmer will be a free agent after the season. That would give a prospective draft pick one year to be groomed as the starter.

The Patriots also have long-term needs at cornerback, wide receiver and running back.

@DougKyed Does the Harbor signing mean that Michael Williams is no longer needed? Could he be an O-Lineman full-time instead?
— @JimGilhooly1957
The Patriots could elect to carry four tight ends on their 53-man roster next season. There also could be a battle between Harbor, Williams and A.J. Derby for the third tight end spot. I wouldn’t necessarily rule out anything at that position yet.

@DougKyed with all the additions to the roster, do you really expect that the Pats draft 11 rookies? Or use the ammo to climb in early round
— @PatPatriotMX
The Patriots had even less space on their roster last season, traded down twice and used 11 picks. I think it would be smart for the Patriots to trade up at some point, but they could also be going into the draft knowing players taken in later rounds won’t make the roster. Training camp competition is never a bad thing.

@DougKyed As Butler will be a RFA after next season, do you think the Pats will 1st round tender him? If so, do you see anyone match that?
— @RiedoMischa
I think the Patriots will try their best to extend him before it gets to that point. If they can’t, they will almost certainly place a first-round tender on him. Then, in a worst-case scenario, another team has to give up that draft pick if they overbid for his services. The Patriots have the opportunity to match any offer, but if it gets excessive, they’d likely take the first-rounder and move on.

@DougKyed Sup?
— @June__NYC
Just writing a mailbag. I should be packing, because I’m leaving for WrestleMania 32 on Friday morning.

@DougKyed Most anticipated match this weekend?
— @zacxwolf
Sami Zayn vs. Nakamura will be the best wrestling match of the weekend, but I’m looking forward to Shane McMahon-Undertaker more. Shane-Undertaker will be, at the very least, an entertaining spot-fest. And I have no idea how the match will end, which is always a good thing in today’s WWE.

@DougKyed what’s gonna be the better show this weekend, NXT Takeover or WrestleMania?
— @MrBigShot01
I hope it’s WrestleMania, because I know NXT will be great. And if WrestleMania can top NXT, that means it will be an all-timer. My hopes aren’t very high for that to happen, though. WWE will need to pull out all the stops on Shane-Taker and Triple H-Roman Reigns for that to happen. I don’t think WrestleMania 32 will be lackluster by any means, but it could have been better if John Cena, Seth Rollins, Randy Orton, Neville, Luke Harper and Sting hadn’t all suffered injuries.

Thumbnail photo via Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via Sep 20, 2015; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins defensive tackle Terrance Knighton (98) runs onto the field prior to the Redskins' game against the St. Louis Rams at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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