A mini-defensive shuffle has been implemented thus far in Patriots OTAs as Rob Ninkovich has transitioned largely to defensive end. The vacancy at linebacker has allowed Bobby Carpenter to shine.
“Bobby’s been here all spring, he’s worked hard. Good athlete, runs well, smart guy, has some experience. [He] has done some different things in his career, played inside, played outside, played in the sub, played in the kicking game. He’s been a pretty versatile player in a couple of different organizations,” Belichick said (per ESPN.com).
So far it's been Carpenter, a first-round pick of the 2006 draft, who has gotten the nod over Patriots 2012 first-rounder Dont'a Hightower, as noted by Mike Rodak of ESPNBoston.com.
When the team had three linebackers on the field, it was Carpenter, not Hightower, getting the nod. Hightower, the first-round pick, has been lined up with veteran special teamer Niko Koutouvides in second-unit sub packages, while also leading the second wave base defense as the ‘Mike’ linebacker.
It certainly may not stay that way, especially considering how versatile Carpenter is. He can contribute on special teams and has experience in just about every formation and on the inside or outside of an alignment. Carpenter is shaping up to be a fine veteran addition to a young defense, and his role is his to earn moving forward.