With the signing of defensive tackle Andre Neblett this week, the quest to fill the Vince Wilfork void is on for the New England Patriots.
Neblett, 25, is a veteran of three NFL seasons with the Carolina Panthers. The 6-foot, 310-pounder was added to the 53-man roster by the Patriots, who do have two defensive tackles on the practice squad in Justin Francis and Marcus Forston, but those players are more inside pass rushers.
Neblett was signed to do one thing, stop the run. He could be over powered by offensive linemen if he doesn’t stay low. At his height, he is still built like brickhouse and will have the ability clog up the running lanes, something Joe Vellano and Chris Jones had difficulty with last week against the Bengals. Neblett will force double teams at times and has a decent motor. He may need to improve his stamina if the Patriots plan to use him in any significant role against the Saints on Sunday.
After joining the Panthers as a rookie free agent out of Temple in 2010, Neblett signed with Tampa Bay as an unrestricted free agent on May 6, 2013 but was released by the Buccaneers after training camp.
Neblett has played in thirty NFL games with seven starts during his three seasons with the Panthers and has registered 28 total tackles, three sacks and two fumble recoveries. Last season, he played in eleven games with two starts and recorded eleven tackles and a half sack.
Neblett is a nose tackle and will line up over the center for the Patriots. He is an upgrade in short yard situations over Vellano and Jones. The Patriots could have used him on the fourth and goal play against the Bengals last Sunday, where the Patriots defensive line was simply pushed into the end zone. With no Wilfork or Kelly on the field, the danger of being pushed around is a major concern.
Expect to see Neblett to be on the field on 4-3 blitz packages or short yardage situations. If he gives a sub-par effort in those situations, he could be released on Monday.
Bryan Souza is a new contributor to Patriots Insider. He has extensive scouting knowledge of several college and pro teams throughout the country.