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5 veteran Patriots who need good spring, summer to strengthen roster status

05.29.14 at 11:49 am ET
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Tavon Wilson has slipped down the depth chart. (AP)

Tavon Wilson has slipped down the depth chart. (AP)

With the spring practice sessions now in full swing, there are a handful of players who have spent some time in the system who are on what could be called a preliminary roster bubble. It’s important to remember that there’s a lot of football between now and the start of the regular season, and so these players will have plenty of chances to turn things in their favor. But at first glance, here are five vets who need a good spring and summer to solidify their spot on the roster.

Defensive end Jake Bequette — Bequette has been a non-factor in his first two seasons in the NFL. He’s been a game-day inactive for 25 of a possible 32 regular-season games in that stretch. With the acquisition of veteran Will Smith this spring, there’s more urgency to Bequette’s situation. He needs to take advantage of his reps this spring and summer and display the consistency that made him the 90th overall selection by the Patriots in 2012.

Defensive end Michael Buchanan — While Buchanan might not have the same sense of urgency around his situation as Bequette — Buchanan just completed his first year — he still needs to turn thing up a notch this spring if he wants to be considered a key part of the defense in 2014. The arrival of Smith and the fact that Buchanan dropped off the radar screen at the end of last season combine to make it imperative that the Illinois product has a good spring and summer if he wants to be a part of the regular defensive rotation in the fall.

Defensive back Tavon Wilson — According to Pro Football Focus, Wilson played just 19 defensive snaps in 2013. Nineteen. (As a refresher, he was the 48th overall pick in the 2012 draft.) For a team that was in need of some help at safety over the course of the season, this doesn’t bode well for the Illinois product. To be fair, he did end up being a core member of New England’s special teams unit. And he should get every opportunity to compete for the strong safety position this spring and summer, considering the depth at that spot is woefully thin, at least at this point. Regardless, anyone who ends up playing less than 20 defensive snaps over the course of the whole season and only has two inactives on the year … that doesn’t bode well for their future.

Tight end D.J. Williams — The tight end uttered one of our favorite quotes of 2013. Shortly after he was acquired, he was asked about the New England offense: “It’€™s just the terminology,’€ Williams said. ‘€œThe concepts are pretty much the same. It’€™s just called different. It’€™s like trying to pick up Spanish. This offense is very attractive and if you found a very attractive Hispanic lady, you’€™d pick [her] up pretty quick.” Right now, Williams figures to be on the back end of the depth chart, but if the Patriots do end up picking up free agent tight end Dustin Keller after June 1, he could be trying to woo someone else in some other locale come training camp.

Wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins — We covered many of the reasons that the heat could be on KT going into his second year here, but when it comes to personnel and scheme and packages — as well as measuring overall special teams value — it’s clear that Thompkins could use a couple of good months. New England usually heads into the season with either five or six wide receivers on its roster — if the Patriots choose Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson, that’s four. Matthew Slater is a receiver in name only, but the special teams captain still needs a position, so we’ll award him the fifth spot. The last spot could come down to Thompkins or Josh Boyce, and Boyce has demonstrated special teams value while Thompkins has not. (Things could change if the Patriots tweak their personnel in some other offensive skill position areas — one fewer back or tight end.) Right now, it appears that Thompkins needs a good couple of months to solidify his spot on the roster.

Read More: D.J. Williams, Jake Bequette, Kenbrell Thompkins, Michael Buchanan
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