New England Patriots Training Camp: Jermaine Cunningham Is Turning Heads Early

James DiMaio@@JamesDiMaioCorrespondent IJuly 30, 2012

Oct 17, 2010; Foxboro, MA, USA;  New England Patriots defensive end Jermaine Cunningham (96) during the first half against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Ravens 23-20. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-US PRESSWIRE

Last year during the Patriots' training camp, Jermaine Cunningham rarely impressed onlookers. This year seems to be the exact opposite for the third-year outside linebacker/defensive end, as he's been catching the eyes of many early in camp.

The Patriots recently awarded Cunningham a front-row parking space at Gillette Stadium for his outstanding offseason performance (as reported by Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston). This comes as no surprise, as Bill Belichick spoke highly of the former Florida Gator earlier this offseason.

"Jermaine's had a great offseason," Belichick said (as noted by Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe). "He's really worked hard. He looks good."

The accolades have continued into training camp, with multiple spectators praising Cunningham's improvement.

Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston gave his opinion on Cunningham's performance thus far in camp, writing:

Patriots defensive end Jermaine Cunningham, the 2010 second-round draft choice who dipped in 2011 after a promising rookie season, looks more explosive than he did last season (on Saturday, I saw him get the edge on Marcus Cannon and bend to the cone that would have been the quarterback). He's not going down without a fight, working at left end in the team's four-man line. It seems like a good fit for him in the defense the Patriots have been running.

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Bleacher Report's AFC East lead blogger Erik Frenz also shed some light on Cunningham's development in camp in a recent article, noting:

[O]n Saturday, [Cunningham] was playing with a purpose. He consistently put pressure on the quarterback in 11-on-11 drills, displaying a good mix of speed and power in his pass rush. He did show some inconsistent effort against the run but seemed to flip a switch whenever the offense was in a passing formation.

Cunningham performing at such a high level this early in camp is a great sign. With the Patriots' season opener against the Tennessee Titans on September 9 over a month away, Cunningham has plenty of time to further convince the coaching staff that he is deserving of a starting spot on the defensive line.

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