Scouting the Patriots in 2011
John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
LinebackerJerod Mayo (pictured), Brandon Spikes, Rob Ninkovich, Gary Guyton, Dane Fletcher, Tracy White, Jeff Tarpinian, A.J. Edds
Outside of rookie free agent Tarpinian there isn't a new face in this group but the feeling here is they're better because Mayo will be playing a role that takes better advantage of his athleticism: as weakside linebacker he'll be on the attack, able to rush the passer more and also drop into coverage. Expect to see him covering ground from sideline to sideline. Assuming he can stay on the field, Spikes is strong against the run, and Ninkovich, Guyton, and Fletcher each have areas in which they can excel. During the preseason, Ninkovich played with a hand in the dirt and in a 2-point stance; Guyton is solid on third downs; and Fletcher, in just his second season, has at times handled play-calling duties. Edds was a fourth-round draft pick of the Dolphins in 2010 who missed his entire rookie season due to a torn ACL; Miami expected him to contribute on third downs this year but released him.