The following is a review of what the New England Patriots are getting in defensive lineman Bruce Gaston (claimed on waivers from the Arizona Cardinals) after a film study of him in two preseason games -- against the Houston Texans (week 1) and San Diego Chargers (week 4):
Alignment and style of play: Gaston lined up at nose tackle in the Cardinals' 3-4 defense in the preseason opener and then was mostly at defensive end in the finale. So it looks like he has a little bit of versatility to play different techniques from head up against the tackles to anywhere on the inside. Gaston played on early downs and then came off in sub situations, reflecting his status as more of a two-down run-stuffing type. In the passing game, he's more likely to win with a bull-rush as he is not a dynamic rusher. Gaston is 6-foot-2 and 308 pounds and if there is one thing that made a positive impression, it's playing strength coupled with a bit of nastiness to finish each play (he sometimes threw down the blocker in front of him as the play unfolded).
Areas to improve: In the preseason opener, Gaston struggled to maintain his balance at times when playing head up on the center. On one pass rush, he got too high and was pancaked by Texans center Ben Jones. He lost his footing on another running play while chasing from behind. Also, late in the fourth quarter against the Chargers, he was turned inside in a one-on-one situation against left tackle Willie Smith, as a large hole opened and led to a 23-yard-run. If there was a positive to the play, it was that Gaston hustled downfield to make the tackle (one of his six in the game).
Limited work to assess: There wasn't a lot of film to watch because he didn't play in the middle two preseason games, and was on the field sparingly in the opener and then in the second half of the finale. That made me think the Patriots' interest in claiming Gaston might have gone back to the pre-draft process (Gaston was a captain at Purdue), because there wasn't overwhelming performance on tape from the preseason to spark a waiver claim.
Plays that stood out: The Chargers blew a blitz pickup with just less than 12 minutes to play in the game and Gaston came surging in between the left guard and left tackle for a big sack late in the fourth quarter, showing nice explosion as he was unblocked and crunched quarterback Brad Sorensen. ... He disengaged from offensive guard Kenny Wiggins on one running play and dove at running back Brandon Oliver to make the tackle, showing the ability to shed, locate the ball-carrier and make the tackle.
Summary: Gaston wore No. 75 in Arizona, which won't be an option for him in New England because it belongs to Vince Wilfork. But there is a link to Wilfork, because Gaston looks like he could potentially fill Sealver Siliga's role behind Wilfork until Siliga returns to health from a left hand/wrist injury. Gaston is a physical presence at the line of scrimmage who benched 34 times at his pro day and sometimes that strength shows up on the field.