Michael Buchanan to the Patriots: How Does the DE Fit with New England?
The New England Patriots surprisingly stocked up on defensive ends once again this year in the draft, after having taken two last year as well. Though Chandler Jones seems entrenched at the right defensive end spot, it would be appear all bets are off everywhere else, including Rob Ninkovich's spot.
With so many young defensive ends wanting a roster spot, the competition in training camp should be intense. Clearly, improving their play on the edge was a priority for the Patriots coming into this draft.
The only role left for all the defensive ends outside of Jones at this point is to bring everything you've got to training camp. The most immediate role up for grabs will be as a designated pass-rusher and on special teams, since it seems like a long shot that Michael Buchanan can step into the base defense and play against the run.
He must flash an ability to get to the quarterback early and often in training camp, from a number of different spots, to have a chance to stick.
Buchanan enters a crowded mix at defensive end. This includes Jermaine Cunningham, Ninkovich, Jake Bequette and Justin Francis, to go with fellow rookie Jamie Collins.
Of those six players, there might only be four jobs, depending on if they need to use one of them as an interior rusher like they did with Cunningham last year. If Buchanan can't crack the 53-man roster, he would probably make it through waivers to the practice squad.
It will be an uphill battle for Buchanan to make the roster. The defensive end group is deep and talented, with many players knowing they're facing a make-or-break year. Both Cunningham and Bequette should come to camp with something to prove, or they'll likely be cut at the end of the summer.
For Buchanan to knock one or both of them off might be a tall task. But you can never have too many pass-rushers, and Bill Belichick does not mind taking the time to develop them on the practice squad if necessary, as he did with Markell Carter, though he never worked out in New England.
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