Kelly solidifies his standing with Pats

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Near the end of Tuesday's joint practice between the Patriots and Buccaneers, the teams were working on field goals.

Unlike the end of Patriots-only practices, when the field-goal drill usually comes against a light rush, each team took the opportunity to turn things up from a field-goal block perspective.

That's where 6-foot-6, 310-pound Tommy Kelly made us take notice.

Kelly burst through the Buccaneers' protection and thrust his long arms into the air to deflect one field-goal attempt. He was shaken up on the play, and attempted to stay on the field for the next kick, before the coaches yanked him for rookie Joe Vellano.

It wasn't the first type of disruptive play we've seen from Kelly in training camp. In the preseason opener against the Eagles, for example, the 32-year-old combined with Chandler Jones on a strip sack that was recovered by the Patriots.

Kelly looks like the sure-fire answer to one of the few personnel-related questions facing the Patriots defense this preseason: Who starts next to Vince Wilfork at defensive tackle?

Last year, it was a combination of Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick, both of whom are now with the Jaguars. Kelly, whose combination of length and power looks like a nice complement to the 6-2, 325-pound Wilfork, should be an upgrade when it comes to pass rush.

If anything, the bigger question now seems to be whether the Patriots have enough quality depth behind Wilfork and Kelly. Because of that, the club needs both players to continue to show the durability that has been a big part of their careers.

"It's like boxing, your toughness is pretty much one of the biggest things you need in the game. If you ain't tough or durable, they're going to weed you out real quick," said Kelly, who is wearing Richard Seymour's old No. 93 jersey.

Kelly drew praise from coach Bill Belichick on Saturday. He got a bit more of it from Wilfork on Tuesday.

"It's always good to work with someone who has been in the league for a while. I followed him when he was in Oakland, so I kind of understand his play. He fits our system well, a guy who is passionate about the game, loves the game, and works hard," Wilfork said.

Wilfork then got into some X's and O's, noting how opponents might have to think twice about double-teaming him because of Kelly's knack for disruption. Then if teams attempt to double the versatile Kelly, it could create opportunities for Wilfork or others.

"It will make it harder for our opponents to game-plan against us," he said.