The New England Patriots made an impressive under-the-radar signing, bringing in free agent defensive tackle Mike Pennel earlier this off season.
On the surface, the defensive tackle position stands out as the most obvious need for the New England Patriots. Their current top four of Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Adam Butler and Danny Shelton is solid but leaves plenty to be desired.
The Patriots do not have any stand-out players on the inside who are going to create consistent pressure and put up big numbers. That being said, they have a lot of solid and dependable defensive tackles who can get the job done. Mike Pennel was brought in as a free agent this off season and stands out as a strong fit for this team.
The New England Patriots do not ask a ton out of their defensive tackles. Their interior players are typically asked to two-gap on the inside, maintain leverage in their gaps and defend the run. They will occasionally ask an interior rusher to create some one-gap penetration, but more often than not, the Patriots are just looking for guys to eat up space and defend the run.
This makes Pennel a perfect fit for the Patriots. Pennel is an absolute beast on the inside. He does not explode off of the ball or move particularly well, but Pennel is a big and strong defender who is difficult to move off of his spot. He is an elite-level run defender who can single-handily plug up the middle of the field.
Lawrence Guy is a similarly effective run defender who shines in a two-gap system. However, Guy is a bit quicker and has shown some success lining up as a three-technique. An interior defensive line duo of Guy and Pennel would not offer much in the pass rush department, but they would be incredibly difficult to run against.
Pennel is not a true three-down defensive tackle. However, he has elite upside as a run defender and is a perfect fit for the New England Patriots defense. Pennel was a fantastic value signing for the Patriots this off season.