Belichick talks DL rookies Vellano, Jones

With defensive tackle Vince Wilfork tearing his Achilles, it shines a brighter spotlight on the team's remaining personnel at the position.

Veteran Tommy Kelly was the starter alongside Wilfork, with rookies Joe Vellano, 24, and Chris Jones, 23, in the third and fourth spots on the depth chart.

Vellano (undrafted free agent) and Jones (waiver pickup Sept. 11 after being dropped by the Texans and then the Bucs) are lower-profile players and Bill Belichick was asked about them Monday:

• On Vellano: “Joe’s a hard-working kid. He was a productive player in college. He played a lot of spots at Maryland. He played end, he played tackle, he played some on the nose.

“He’s got good instincts, kind of has a nose for the ball, good feel for what’s going on. He’s really worked hard to first come in as an undrafted player and earn a spot on the roster. He had an opportunity to get some playing time as we went through the preseason and he took advantage of those opportunities. He made a few plays, had some production. That led to a little bit more opportunity.

“There’s a lot of things that’s he’s improved in in terms of technique and recognition and reaction. He’s making progress. He works hard every day. He’s the first one on and last one off the field or close to it, puts in a lot of extra time, tries to get better at the things he needs to work on and that’s helped him.”

• On Jones: “This was the first game he was active for us. He’s had a couple of weeks of practice, a lot of meetings with coach [Patrick] Graham, extra work on the field before and after practice, especially after practice, one on one and different group drills that we do. I think he’s getting a better familiarity with our system and our communication, the techniques that we play. He did some of those in Houston, where he played both nose and end in a 3-4 scheme. ...

"Overall he’s getting familiar with what we do. Our calls, his assignments, block reaction, all those kind of things have been better over the past couple of weeks and he was active for the game. He had an opportunity to play some last night. Hopefully he can build on that.”