Patriots Film Review: Tyler Gaffney, Vincent Valentine Flash In Run Game


The New England Patriots’ running back roster battle is as cloudy as ever, but Bill Belichick’s decision to sit Terrance Knighton might have created a little clarity at defensive tackle.

Something has to give with Knighton, Malcolm Brown, Alan Branch, Vincent Valentine, Markus Kuhn and Anthony Johnson all competing for snaps and roles. It seems the Patriots would only be willing to keep five defensive tackles, at the most, and Knighton was the odd-man out in the third preseason game, which is considered by some to be a regular season dress rehearsal.

Find out what Valentine’s performance in the Patriots’ 19-17 win over the Carolina Panthers might say about the team’s defensive tackle competition in this week’s film review. Check here for analysis on the passing game.

— Tyler Gaffney, who’s competing for the fourth running back roster spot, was boom or bust Friday night with carries of 15, 14, 5, 3, 1, 0, 0, -1 and -2 yards. He was at his best with the Patriots’ first-team offensive line.

He showed nice burst on a 14-yard carry early in the first quarter, when he outran Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly to the edge — no small feat. His biggest strength is being assertive and hitting holes without hesitation.

— Rookie guard Joe Thuney was shoved back, but Gaffney avoided his blocker while hitting the edge quickly. Fullback James Develin also cleared out room for him.

— It seemed slightly counter productive to give LeGarrette Blount four straight touches and five touches in seven plays as the Patriots were driving down the field early in the third quarter. The 250-pound running back was understandably gassed after 11- and 7-yard receptions to start the stretch. He had nothing left by the time he was attempting to convert on fourth-and-1, and the Patriots turned the ball over on downs.

— D.J. Foster showed a decent burst on three carries. He was better in the passing game, however.

— Thuney had his weakest game of the summer. He was facing tough competition and was beat by Kuechly, one of the best linebackers in the NFL, twice.

— Develin also opened up holes on 5- and 17-yard runs by Blount. He showed why the Patriots value him so highly.

— Vincent Valentine was knocked for his inconsistency in college. He played 27 snaps against the Panthers and made two nice run stuffs but was pancaked once. If the Patriots believe he can contribute early, they could free up a roster spot by cutting a veteran defensive tackle.

— Valentine, lined up at nose, stacked and shed Kalil to make a tackle for a 2-yard stop.

— Valentine moved down the without getting pushed out and corralled Cameron Artis-Payne for another 2-yard gain.

— Valentine has a ton of upside with length at 6-foot-3, 320 pounds. He could replace Terrance Knighton or Markus Kuhn as a space-eater in the Patriots’ defense if he can continue to show consistency with this strong play. It was once thought Valentine would be redshirted as a rookie. That might no longer be the case.

— Linebacker Jonathan Freeny, who reportedly signed a two-year contract extension Saturday, was blocked out on 23-, 5- and 4-yard runs by the Panthers. He could receive less snaps on defense this season after the Patriots brought in hybrid edge defenders Barkevious Mingo, Shea McClellin and Chris Long.

Thumbnail photo via Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports Images

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