FOXBORO, Mass. — Malcom Brown finds himself in a rare role for a second-year player. Because of the turnover the New England Patriots experienced at defensive tackle during the 2016 offseason, the 2015 first-round draft pick has become a leader during organized team activities.
Only Joe Vellano, who had stints with the Patriots in 2013, 2014 and 2015, and Alan Branch, who didn’t participate in last week’s OTA session, have more experience in New England than Brown. Brown, 22, played in 16 games — starting 12 — in 2015, however, while Vellano only spent a brief time on the Patriots’ practice squad last season.
“Malcom Brown has basically been leading the group,” 2016 free-agent signee Terrance Knighton told reporters last week. “Being his second year, he’s probably the most experienced guy in there right now in terms of this team. I’m picking his brain to see how things are done around here.”
Special teams captain Matthew Slater isn’t shocked.
“Well, I think Malcom, he was a unique young guy last year,” Slater said Thursday. “He came in with a sense of maturity about himself that you don’t often see out of a young player, and it’s no surprise that he’s stepping up and leading now.
“I think he has a great demeanor about himself that kind of guys are drawn to him. He works extremely hard and he’s very productive on the field and all those things result in some form of leadership, and guys are going to look to him, and I think that he’s handled that responsibility well.
“We have a number of young players that have stepped up with the changes that we’ve had, as we do every year, and are doing a great job of leadership. So, Malcom, along with several other young guys, are stepping up and leading and that’s what we need if we want to end up where we want to be.”
The Patriots allowed defensive tackles Akiem Hicks and Sealver Siliga to walk in free agency and released 2014 first-round pick Dominique Easley this spring. They filled in their depth at defensive tackle by signing Knighton, Markus Kuhn, Frank Kearse and Anthony Johnson as veteran free agents. They also drafted Vincent Valentine in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft and signed Woodrow Hamilton as an undrafted free agent.
“I’m just trying to take new guys, young guys and do what the older guys did for me,” Brown said Thursday. “Just help them along with the plays and stuff and try to get them to transition better.”
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images
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