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Training camp preview: Defensive line

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff  July 16, 2012 03:39 PM

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Rookie ends Jake Bequette (left) and Chandler Jones appear to be in good position to make the cut for spots on the 53-man regular-season roster (Getty Images).

Greg A. Bedard provides a status report on the Patriots' defensive position groups heading into the start of training camp on July 26.

Position: Defensive line
Current number of players: 17.
Four-year average at cut to 53 players: 7.5.
Last season at 53: 10 (five tackles, five ends).

This is a position that you have to look solely at last year’s number. That’s when the Patriots went to a 4-3 alignment, and they look to be doing the same this year.

Locks
Tackle:
Vince Wilfork, Jonathan Fanene
End: Rob Ninkovich, Trevor Scott, Chandler Jones, Jake Bequette

Near locks
Tackle:
Brandon Deaderick, Kyle Love
End: None
Note: Both Deaderick and Love have to come to play because if they slip, they’ll find themselves quickly on the bubble. Deaderick is the more talented of the two and has a higher ceiling, but he’s more inconsistent. Love has really improved, but he’s not going to get much better than he is at this point.

Battling
Tackle:
Myron Pryor, Justin Francis, Gerard Warren, Ron Brace
End: Jermaine Cunningham
Note: Pryor, provided he comes back to health (shoulder) from where he was last year at this time, should make this team and make an impact. Francis has been one of the standouts as an undrafted free agent and brings tackle/end versatility. If he keeps it up, he may make this team. Brace and Cunningham are on their final runs. The Patriots need Cunningham more. Don’t be surprised if the Patriots pull the same thing again with Warren this season and release him and bring him back later. He earned a spot with his play in training camp in 2011 but was released. I have the feeling both he and the team realize he can only last half a season at 33 years old and have an agreement.

Long shots
Tackle:
Marcus Harrison, Marcus Fortson
End: Alex Silvestro, Aaron Lavarias
Note: Don’t see any of them having much of a shot.

53-man prediction
Tackle (6):
Vince Wilfork, Jonathan Fanene, Brandon Deaderick, Kyle Love, Myron Pryor, Justin Francis
End (4): Rob Ninkovich, Trevor Scott, Chandler Jones, Jake Bequette
Cut (6): Gerard Warren, Ron Brace, Marcus Harrison, Marcus Fortson, Alex Silvestro, Aaron Lavarias
Trade (1): Jermaine Cunningham

Parting thought: An x-factor in all of this is the possible (and we think probable) return of end Andre Carter. That left us with four ends. If that happens, then Love or Pryor could go. It will depend on their play. Of course, Francis could come back down to earth when the pads go on.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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