FOXBORO -- Terrance Knighton knows the scouting report on his game has been well established after seven years in the league.
He's an anchor in the middle of the defensive line. He occupies double-teams. He...
"...Eats up space," he said on Saturday, finishing off the standard bullet-point description of his skill set.
While the 350-pound defensive tackle signed by the Patriots this offseason knows that holding his ground to clog running lanes is one of his strengths, he's trying to prove that he's a better athlete than he gets credit for.
During one 11-on-11 repetition on Saturday, it was Knighton's mobility down the line of scrimmage that stood out. He sniffed out a stretch run to his right, pursued James White toward the sideline, and put a solid thud on the running back as the first defender to the ball.
Knighton said after practice that he's happy with his conditioning, and he's comfortable in the Patriots defensive playbook. As a result, he thinks he may be playing faster.
"I take pride in it," Knighton said. "I'm in better shape than I've been in. I'm understanding the defense a lot better now so maybe I'll play faster than I did earlier in OTAs. Of course, I hear the criticism. And obviously, I feel like a guy with my skill set keeps playing on different teams. I obviously want to make a name for myself somewhere and make a home for myself, and I just want to eliminate that me being a one-type of guy and more of an all-around player."
Knighton has put in plenty of conditioning work since his arrival to the Patriots. He's already very familiar with head strength and conditioning coach Moses Cabrera and The Hills behind the Gillette Stadium practice fields.
But he explained that part of the reason he feels as though he's in better shape is because his diet has changed since changing teams.
"All my meals are cut to a T based on my body type, my blood type," he said. "I'm getting extra treatment. I'm getting extra workouts in. I have an in-home chef, something that they've set up for me. Everything's set up on point."
And it's not just his meals. It's his snacks, too. There was a time when Knighton would down a Snickers or a bag of Doritos in a meeting just to help him stay alert. He said that the Patriots, whose nutrition program is led by team nutritionist Ted Harper, have helped him find healthier alternatives.
"It's become maybe sunflower seeds, or maybe pecans or walnuts or grapes," he said. "Something where you know I can eat a lot of it and get something out of it at the same time. It's tough. It's tough. But it's only going to help me out here because I would feel it all. I would be mad about those Doritos if I had them today."
Knighton had a strong day during the Patriots' first padded practice. He won decisively in the lone one-on-one matchup I saw him participate in, and he showed some power during periods focused on the inside running game.
His strengths are his strengths, but if he can continue to exhibit the athleticism he flashed Saturday, Knighton should only continue to get plenty of training camp reps, even when Alan Branch (on the non-football injury list) returns to practice.
With a new team and a changed diet, Knighton seems to be embracing everything being thrown at him. In New England, he's in a structured environment that he feels may help him improve his game -- even when many feel as though they have it figured out.
"At all times of the day, I have something to do productive whether it's staying in shape, whether it's getting stronger, or whether it's getting rest," he said. "They set it up for you so that you're always doing something. At the end of the day, you're always doing something that's productive and not going backwards."