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patriots positional analysis: defensive line

Patriots have a solid foundation in place along the defensive line

Lawrence Guy (left) and Deatrich Wise Jr. are part of a stout defensive front for the Patriots.Winslow Townson/Associated Press

As wave after wave of Patriots file off to the locker room following sweltering training camp practices, one always lingers behind.

Deatrich Wise Jr. isn’t slacking off, rather he’s working his butt off. Whether he’s refining his techniques or tutoring young defensive linemen, Wise has always been among the last to retreat to the shade.

The extra work has paid dividends for the Patriots and Wise, whose role has seemingly increased in every one of his six pro seasons, from situational edge rusher to every-down defender.

A first-time captain in 2022, Wise set career highs with 59 tackles and 7.5 sacks while consistently setting the edge for the defense. His breakout performance came in Week 3 when he got elusive Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson to the turf three times.

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Wise flashes a friendly face in the locker room, but that mug turns menacing at kickoff. His work ethic has helped set the defensive tone among his teammates.

“You’ve seen it through [organized team activities] and all camp,” Matthew Judon said following the Ravens game. “That’s the reason why he’s one of our leaders, one of our captains. Deatrich has been putting in so much work off the field. Countless hours that nobody has seen. It’s just showing up now.”

Wise is one of the four foundations that help form the first line of defense, along with Lawrence Guy, Davon Godchaux, and Christian Barmore, all of whom are under contract through 2024.

Guy just finished his 12th NFL season, the last half-dozen in New England, and might be one of the most underrated NFL players of the last decade.

He finished 2022 with 46 tackles and two sacks, but as is the case with many defensive linemen, stats don’t really tell the story. Guy has the strength to occupy multiple blockers to allow his teammates to make plays. He also has the versatility to play every technique in the scheme.

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Godchaux is just a monster in the middle. Called “one of the best defensive linemen in the league” by Bill Belichick last summer, Godchaux went out and quietly had another strong season.

Godchaux is a run-stuffing tackle who won’t put up gaudy numbers (62 tackles, 1.5 sacks) but will manhandle blockers so they can’t get their hands on the linebackers, therefore allowing the linebackers to get their hands on the ball carriers.

Barmore's absence was palpable.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Barmore missed a seven-game chunk in the middle of the season with a nagging knee injury, and he was missed. A towering presence at 6 feet 5 inches and 310 pounds with long arms, he still managed 23 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

He possesses the explosiveness and power to become one of the more dominating young tackles in the league over the next few years.

Carl Davis (he can anchor against the run) and Daniel Ekuale (he can penetrate the pocket) fit nicely into the rotation in 2022. Both are free agents, and it would not be a surprise to see them back in similar roles in 2023.

Rookie ends DaMarcus Mitchell (he was a special teams standout) and Sam Roberts (he was inactive for nine of the final 10 games) will look to increase their snaps in 2023. Ditto for Jeremiah Pharms and LaBryan Ray, each of whom spent 2022 on the practice squad and have signed futures contracts.

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Top free agent tackles: Javon Hargrave (Eagles), Sheldon Rankins (Jets), Fletcher Cox (Eagles), Jerry Tillery (Raiders), David Onyemata (Saints).

Top draftable tackles: Jalen Carter (Georgia), Bryan Bresee (Clemson), Calijah Kancey (Pittsburgh), Siaka Ika (Baylor), Mazi Smith (Michigan State).

Top free agent ends: Yannick Ngakoue (Colts), A’Shawn Robinson (Rams), Clelin Ferrell (Raiders), Brandon Graham (Eagles), Jadeveon Clowney (Browns).

Top draftable ends: Will Anderson (Alabama), Tuli Tuipulotu (Southern Cal), Isaiah Foskey (Notre Dame), Tyree Wilson (Texas Tech), Myles Murphy (Clemson).


Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.