The New England Patriots have young defensive end Chandler Jones and veteran playmaker Rob Ninkovich as their defensive ends. After that there are question marks, which is why the team brought in veteran pass-rusher Will Smith, who signed with the team after spending much of his career with the New Orleans Saints. According to an July 14 report by Boston.com, Smith could provide a veteran presence on the defensive front that was missing last year.
After the injuries to both Will Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, the Patriots had to go with young, inexperienced players. Although the playing time helped players like Chris Jones, the lack of experience really came through during crucial moments of the season, particularly the AFC Championship Game against the Denver Broncos. The Patriots weren’t able to develop much of a pass rush during the game partly due to their lack of depth behind Jones and Ninkovich.
The team has also drafted defensive end Zack Moore to compete with Smith, second-year player Michael Buchanan and Jake Bequette for back-up roles. The team is hoping that Smith’s experience will shine through, but after being out most of 2013 with a torn ACL, the 6-foot-3 defensive end will have to fight to make the team. But if he shows any signs of the player who recorded more than 10 sacks back in 2006 and 2009, the Patriots could use Smith inside during passing downs and create inside pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Smith is definitely up for the challenge and to prove that he still has something left in the tank that can help a team like the Patriots. He expressed his excitement back in June during minicamp. He said, “I’m excited. I’ve played football the last 15, 16 years. Last year was a little tough not being able to be out there and play because I was hurt, but it’s exciting to be back in OTAs and now in minicamp, being a part of stuff.”
That excitement expressed by Smith could and should provide some major competition on the defensive line during training camp. The veteran will more than likely have to battle it out with Buchanan and Moore for a backup role. If he wins out, it will be because of how well he bounces back from the ACL injury and his hunger to produce.