The following is a review of what the New England Patriots are getting in defensive lineman Kelcy Quarles after a film study of him in two preseason games -- against the Indianapolis Colts (19 snaps) and Patriots (30 snaps):
Projects to the interior, has scheme versatility: Quarles mainly played three different techniques in the New York Giants' 4-3 alignment -- head up on the center (0 technique), shaded on the center (1 technique) and shaded on the outside shoulder of the guard (3 technique). He is a physical, strong player with long arms (33 1/4 inches). When he gets his hands into an offensive lineman and extends his arms, he is most effective and shows the ability to control blockers. While he is not a quick-twitch dynamic rusher like first-round draft choice Dominique Easley, he did display short-area quickness, twice penetrating over the left guard's outside shoulder and beating an attempted block down the line of scrimmage from the left tackle. He also showed notable speed (for a player his size) and effort in chasing Colts quarterback Chandler Harnish to the sideline on a scramble.
Areas in which he can improve: No rookie is a finished product, and Quarles sometimes rose high in his stance; when that happened, he was easily blocked. He also picked up three penalties over his 19 snaps against the Colts -- horse-collar tackle (on the play he chased down Harnish), late hit to the quarterback and illegal hands to the face. He won't last long in New England if that becomes the norm.
Plays that stood out: With 8:52 remaining in the fourth quarter against the Patriots, Quarles was jarred back in his pass rush by a strong initial punch from left guard Josh Kline. But he effectively showed the ability to re-start his rush, quickly generating power with his lower body to drive Kline back into the pocket while effectively using his hands and long reach. On the next play, he showed good awareness on an attempted screen (incomplete) before following up on the next snap by pushing Kline into the backfield as the Giants' front got solid penetration and limited running back Roy Finch to a 2-yard gain. That was a nice three-play sequence late in the game when Quarles was likely tiring. ... Later in the fourth quarter, Quarles was too quick for Kline, once again slicing into the offensive backfield on a Jonas Gray run for minus-3 yards.
Context to the evaluation: One of the challenges in evaluating Quarles is that he didn't play against proven top-level competition in the preseason, as he was often in the game in the second half. In the preseason, he played 16 snaps against the Bills in the Hall of Fame Game, was held out of the second game, then followed up with 19 snaps against the Colts, 13 against the Jets and the 30 against the Patriots. The majority of the work we watched came against Kline, rookie center Bryan Stork and the Colts' Thomas Austin (since waived).
Summary: Quarles played well in the preseason finale against the Patriots and our educated guess is that is what sparked the team's waiver claim. Based on that performance, it's hard to believe he went undrafted. Quarles' fit on the New England roster is with the likes of interior players such as Vince Wilfork, Easley, Sealver Siliga, Chris Jones, Joe Vellano and Zach Moore (we're still learning more about waiver claim Bruce Gaston). Each player brings a little something different to the club -- Wilfork and Siliga play bigger against the run, Easley is an athletic pass-rusher, Jones is a slashing 3-technique, while Vellano is a workmanlike technician and Moore is a wild card of sorts who has been lining up all across the front. Quarles would fall somewhere between the Wilfork/Siliga big-against-the-run category and the Jones/3-technique slasher. For a defense that will mix and match combinations, he could be a nice fit. At the least, there is obvious developmental upside.