|Brandon Deaderick gives the Patriots another player to chase quarterbacks such as the Chargers’ Philip Rivers. (file/Jim Davis/Globe Staff)|
Pup is able to help
Young Deaderick waited for chance
FOXBOROUGH - When he sits at his stall in the Patriots’ locker room, to Brandon Deaderick’s immediate right is eight-year veteran Vince Wilfork, and next to Wilfork is 12-year vet Shaun Ellis. A few lockers to Deaderick’s left is Gerard Warren, who is in his 11th season. All were first-round draft picks.
That’s a lot of knowledge. Deaderick, in just his second season, has tried to gain as much as they will offer him as he carves out a spot on New England’s defensive line.
“All the time,’’ Deaderick said when asked if he leans on his older teammates. “They’ve had successful careers for multiple years in the NFL. That’s what I aspire to do as well, so any time I have a question or any time they see something, we’ll conversate back and forth on what I should have done or what they were really trying to do on a certain scheme, just really understanding the game, not just using your physical abilities, because everybody is good here.’’
It has been an interesting path for the 6-foot-4-inch, 305-pound University of Alabama product. A seventh-round pick in 2010 (247th overall), Deaderick was inactive for the first three games last season, but then not only got onto the field, he was a starter against the Ravens, Chargers, Vikings, and Steelers. He wound up playing 10 games as a rookie, but during the bye week before the Patriots’ playoff game, he was briefly suspended by the team. The punishment didn’t last long, nor did the effects linger, as Deaderick started the game against the Jets.
Deaderick began this season on the physically unable to perform list after shoulder surgery, and was activated before last week’s game against the Steelers. He played 16 of 81 snaps and was credited with two tackles by the coaching staff. He may have played more snaps than originally intended after Ellis left the game with a rib injury.
Because he and the Patriots’ other players on the PUP list could not practice for the first six weeks of the season, Deaderick, Kevin Faulk, Ron Brace, and Marcus Cannon are still rounding into game shape. But coach Bill Belichick said yesterday that Deaderick is off to a solid start.
“He’s coming along. Brandon has done a good job,’’ Belichick said. “He’s working hard and he’s taking a lot of snaps. You can see it a little bit every day. It’s still a lot of ground to make up, but he’s certainly closing the gap.’’
With the Patriots still trying to find the right mix to maximize the pass rush, Wilfork is happy to have Deaderick back in the fold.
“Any time you have depth, especially from a defensive line standpoint, it gives you a chance to move guys around and give guys a break, so he definitely brings that to us,’’ Wilfork said. “It’s going to take him a little bit to get back used to playing because he’s been away for a while, he missed the [training] camp we did have, so it’s going to take a while for him, but that comes with the territory.
“I’m happy to have him back, I’m pretty sure the team is happy to have him back because he’ll just give us more people up front we can move around.’’
Wilfork speaks like a proud papa when he discusses the progress Deaderick has made since arriving at Gillette 19 months ago.
“I saw him go from a baby and making the steps forward that he needed to make to be a professional. That’s what this game comes down to,’’ Wilfork said. “You have to be able to separate all your personal life and everything and get focused on your job and be a professional. I think all of our young guys have done that, so that’s just one thing you have to be able to do to stay at this level. If you can’t do that, you won’t be at this level for long. But he’s done that.
“And he’s steadily learning. He’s paying attention to little details now, stuff that when you’re young you really don’t know. But you can tell that he’s starting to pick the game up a little bit more, it’s starting to be more clear for him, so hopefully he can get it done, get back out there, and start making more and more plays because we’re going to need him. We’re going to need everyone down the road, but we’re going to need him.’’
Deaderick talks about the commitment required now to be successful, and is focused on getting better from week to week, whether the tape shows he had a strong game or not. He relishes the opportunity.
But for tonight at least, he’ll be rooting for the success of another team. No. 2 Alabama is hosting top-ranked Louisiana State, and Deaderick and fellow Crimson Tide alumnus Mark Anderson are hoping to earn bragging rights in the locker room over former LSU players Faulk and Stevan Ridley.
Alabama leads the nation in total defense, allowing an average of just 180.5 yards in eight games.
“I’m definitely impressed,’’ Deaderick said. “We had a lot of younger guys when I was there that were playing well, starting early in their career, and now you see the experience that they’ve gained, how elevated their level of play is from being in that system so long and really making it their own. I think they’re playing great.’’