With his future still uncertain at last month's spring game, Pierre Woods told GoBlueWolverine, "If I go to a 4-3 team I'll play defensive end, if I go to a 3-4 team, I'll play outside linebacker." He now knows his fate. Woods will play outside linebacker in New England's 3-4 defense. The team lacks great depth and may open up a spot on the practice squad for Woods to develop his great natural ability.
The roster shapes as follows. Outside linebackers Roosevelt Colvin and Tully Banta-Cain are roster locks, as is Mike Vrabel. The only other listed outside linebacker that has NFL experience is Eric Alexander. Alexander was bounced around on the practice squad, cut, then signed before seeing only limited special teams work in one game. Other than Alexander, Woods will compete with sixth round draft pick Jeremy Mincey, a coverted defensive end from Florida and Corey Mays from Notre Dame.
Mincey will have a lot to overcome moving to a new position but Head Coach Bill Belichick likes the former Gator. Mays played middle linebacker at Notre Dame and may fit better there in New England's scheme. His strongest asset is the ability to contribute on special teams. The team also signed Alabama middle linebacker Freddie Roach and while a move to outside linebacker is possible, he will likely stay on the inside.
A lot will hinge on how other position battles shake out. Monty Beisel, a free agent pickup last year, could move to outside linebacker as could 2005 draft pick Ryan Claridge. Either one of these moves would severely dampen an open roster spot for an undrafted free agent.
The bottom line for Woods his best chance is to latch as on with the practice squad. He had trouble picking up Michigan's 3-4 scheme and will need time to adjust to New England's defense. He does have experience with the alignment, though, and that should give him a small advantage over a player like Jeremy Mincey.
Woods could make the active roster if he shows he can be a difference maker on special teams. New England has traditionally kept a linebacker or two around to help on special teams such as 11 year veteran Larry Izzo.
JoshTurel is a regular contributor to Scout.com's University of Michigan affiliate GoBlueWolverine.com
Patriots Insider Take: Woods is one of a number of defensive ends who have been asked to transition to the linebacker position for the Patriots when they turn pro. Other players who have made the leap are Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest and Tully Banta-Cain, all former college defensive ends, who have become linebackers in New England. The team prefers to use athletic defensive ends who are accustomed to utilizing their speed to play the pass both as a rusher (defensive end), and a cover guy (outside linebacker). Woods has the size (6-5, 248) and the speed to make the transition like McGinest and Banta-Cain. The biggest hurdle for Woods to make the roster is to show he has the intangibles to not only become a reserve backer, but a special teams contributor. Woods will have to seriously step up his game if he wants a real shot at sticking to the roster. The Patriots targeted Mincey in the Draft for the same opportunity. Although the team likes Mincey, they have a history of keeping undrafted rookie free agents over draft picks. Woods has as good a shot as can be asked for, all he has to do is study his tail off and work on his technique.