NEPD Editor: Doug Kyed
If there’s one thing the Patriots and Bill Belichick have excelled at time and time again, it’s pulling free agents off the street and making them into high impact players.
The Patriots seem to find at least one player every year that no one else noticed or wanted whether it’s a rookie undrafted free agent or veteran. This offseason, Belichick seemed to sign every veteran player he could find to increase the depth on the Patriots roster.
One of those players was linebacker and former first round “bust” Bobby Carpenter. Let’s see how Carpenter may fit into the Patriots defense this year.
Leading up to the draft, many Patriots fans were clamoring to draft an undersized weakside linebacker to help out in coverage. The Patriots had struggled in that aspect in recent years trying to fit the oblong shaped peg, Gary Guyton, into either a square, circle or right triangle shaped hole.
Tracy White and Niko Koutouvides didn’t look much better last season in coverage and it was time for an overhaul in the linebacker corps.
The Patriots drafted Dont’a Hightower to take over the SLB spot from Rob Ninkovich, and increased the Patriots pass coverage prowess from the LB position in doing so. Ninkovich is great rushing the passer, but is a liability at times in coverage. Hightower may not have been the 6’0” 225 lb. WLB fans were hoping for, but the FA Carpenter was a little closer.
Carpenter can play WLB, SLB and MLB and may already be the best Patriots linebacker in coverage. He’s been running mostly with the second team out in practice, but has got plenty of reps with the first team when Brandon Spikes has been out. He’s clearly the fourth LB on the depth chart. Carpenter has also been getting reps with the first team at times in sub packages. When Carpenter was first signed, I expected him to be a bubble player on the roster, but based on how he’s fared in training camp, I expect him to be a big part in this defense.
Carpenter struggled bouncing around from Dallas, St. Louis, Miami and Detroit, but this would be far from the first time a free agent has come to New England and found new life. I’ve already mentioned Ninkovich, who fits that bill perfectly, but have you also heard of another versatile linebacker by the name of Mike Vrabel?
Belichick coached Carpenter’s father, Rob Carpenter, in the Giants organization, and we all know how much Belichick subscribes to nepotism (not in a bad way, per se). Belichick learned from his father, and likes players who have done the same. Carpenter looks like a new player out in training camp so far and seems to be enjoying his new lease on life. You never see him slagging on the practice field and is typically leading the defense during wind sprints.
Carpenter has looked especially good in coverage, and has done the best job out of all the Patriots linebackers against impressive TEs Gronk and Hernandez. Carpenter started three games for the Lions last season, all at SLB, but he also did a nice job as a WLB reserve. According to Pro Football Focus’ ratings, Carpenter has always faired better in 4-3 alignments than 3-4. He should be able to fit into the Patriots hybrid defense.
Carpenter may not be a starter in the Patriots defense, but he can be a quality reserve and should be much better than Guyton, White and Koutouvides, who the Patriots had to throw out there last year.
Carpenter signed a one-year $750,000 contract and is guaranteed $50,000.