Patriot Deaderick playing it by ear
Rookie wise to listen to those around him
FOXBOROUGH — Patriots rookie Brandon Deaderick can look to either side of his locker and tap into a little NFL knowledge from a fellow defensive lineman.
On one side, he has Gerard Warren, who is in his 10th season. On the other is Vince Wilfork and his seven years of experience. Deaderick can’t go wrong if he has a question.
“A lot of times, it’s kind of like an overload of information because you’ve got to take a little bit at a time,’’ Deaderick said. “Together they have about 17 or 18 years, including Mike Wright, too, that’s a lot of vet knowledge. Any level you play at, you’re a lot wiser, so you hear, ‘If I knew then what I know now,’ so I try to get that from them and they help a lot. They have a lot to teach.’’
Deaderick isn’t opposed to learning. The seventh-round pick out of Alabama is becoming more of a regular in the rotation. After being inactive for the first three games, Deaderick has seen his playing time increase. First, he was used as a substitute against the Dolphins. Then the Patriots shook up the line, moving Wilfork to end and Warren to nose tackle, with Deaderick being plugged in at left or right end in three consecutive starts.
In four games, Deaderick, who is 6 feet 4 inches and 305 pounds, has eight tackles and two sacks, one of the many young players contributing to the Patriots’ defense. With each snap, Deaderick said he is trying to take advantage of being on the field.
“When you’re out there it gives you the opportunity to learn,’’ he said. “Some people learn by doing, so you become more and more confident in what you’re doing, the more snaps and reps you get. You kind of get a feel for your strengths and things you need to work on, so it helps any time you can be on the field.’’
Deaderick played four seasons at Alabama, where he was part the Crimson Tide’s national championship team as a senior. Once Deaderick was drafted, he said he didn’t think much about the regular season. He just wanted to get through training camp and make the team.
“At this level everyone is talented,’’ he said. “I was more focused on the process of doing things right and learning and focusing on my technique. I felt I was a good player, but just focused on doing everything right and doing the things you need to do and continually getting better. If I did that I believed, eventually someday I’d get a shot. When you get your shot, you have to go out there and perform.’’
The opportunities have been there for Deaderick. He has played in two road games, at Miami and San Diego, and said learning how to compete on the road has been helpful should the Patriots call his number again tomorrow in Cleveland.
“Playing on the road, it’s a hostile environment anywhere you go,’’ Deaderick said. “The main thing for me is focusing on getting the calls, and a lot of times when you’re on the road, teams can gain momentum quickly, so changing that momentum can be a big thing. I’m just trying to stay focused, make sure I get all my calls, and not give up big plays.’’
With each week, the Patriots’ young defense is showing signs of improvement, with so many first- and second-year players contributing. Coach Bill Belichick said he doesn’t put timetables on players’ development, but if a player can grasp the system as a rookie and catch the eye of the coaching staff, that player may be on the field sooner rather than later.
But one solid performance doesn’t guarantee a season of success.
“The players that are out there are out there because they deserve to be out there,’’ Belichick said. “Nobody gets handed anything around here. Everybody’s got to earn their role, their playing time, their opportunity. The guys that are out there are out there because they’ve earned it. They’ve performed better than the people they’ve competed with, in our opinion as a staff. If that changes, then it will change. Everybody’s aware of that.’’