Another great move for the Pats before the 2012 season is even done. They really could’ve used Fletcher’s coverage skills in 2012, and I wouldn’t rule out Fletcher eating into Brandon Spikes’ snaps at middle linebacker in 2013, even in the base defense. He should make a big push to lockdown the nickel coverage linebacker spot as well. Good news!
Good recap of who the ESPN Boston crew thinks are up and down so far in practice. One of my old favorites that hasn’t gotten much love here lately is Dane Fletcher, who they had as an “up”.
Fletcher is one of three players who have appeared on the first team of the Patriots’ core four special-teams units. A prominent special-teams role can be enough to earn a player a spot on a team by itself, but Fletcher has shown up as a linebacker, too. He displayed both power and shiftiness in a blitz pickup drill on Sunday, held down run fits during live 11-on-11 action, and hasn’t shied from contact. The Patriots have developed some depth in the linebacking core, but 2011 starter Brandon Spikes remains extremely limited in practice. That has opened the door for Fletcher to receive increased reps, and he’s answered the bell.
Patriots defense could use Dane Fletcher
It’s hard to know for sure why Dane Fletcher went from being able to play with the thumb injury he suffered in the preseason to being absent from games and practice since before the bye week due to it. Probably safe to assume he either re-injured it or it was more severe than initially thought and needed surgery.
Regardless he’s certainly someone the Patriots defense could use right now. My feelings on Gary Guyton are well documented around here, and with the Pats struggling with coverage on tight ends and in the middle of the field there’s no question the speedy and sure-tackling Fletcher would certainly be useful. Fingers crossed he’s back out there soon…
Dane Fletcher bringing the hurt. Very curious to see where he’s playing this weekend. My guess is all over the place. Hopefully.
Fletcher back today too, that makes 3 of my top 5 players the Pats needed back from injury all on the field today. The new top 3:
1. Leigh Bodden (really, really need him)
2. Dan Connolly
3. Ryan Wendell
You go to war with the army you have—-not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time. - Donald Rumsfeld
I look at the NFL season as a 17 week series of skirmishes that all lead up to the real battles that take place in the playoffs. Some weeks you lose soldiers, some weeks you get guys back healthy, but ultimately it’s about persevering through all the trials and tribulations, the ups and downs for the four month regular season and going into the playoffs firing on all cylinders.
As the final weeks of the preseason wind down the army that the Pats will have for the 2011 campaign is beginning to come into focus, but there are some Pats that haven’t been seen at camp in weeks; Pats that are part of the army I want.
Here are the ones they most need back:
1. Brandon Spikes - You probably saw this one coming. Who knows what exactly is going on with Spikes. Maybe it really is just an ankle injury and all his weird tweets are just totally related to something outside of football. But the fact is that the Pats will have a pretty big hole in their 4-3 defense without Spikes. If Spikes is in there, look out. Playing behind Haynesworth* and Wilfork would enable Spikes to have a potential break out year, but he has to get back on the field first. Without him or Fletcher they could be forced to put Gary Guyton at MLB and that’s definitely not the best spot for him.
2. Leigh Bodden - It was sounding like Bodden had returned to form before sustaining an unknown injury last week that has held him out of practice. I was extremely excited to see how the Pats used McCourty, Arrington and Bodden this year. We saw various looks with Bodden and Arrington both taking turns inside at slot corner and outside at boundary corner in the first two preseason games. We don’t know for sure what BB has planned, but having to go back to last year’s corner lineup could be scary unless Ras-I Dowling is ready to step in and contribute after missing most of training camp.
3. Mike Wright - The Pats are in better position to get by this year without Wright if they need to given all the defensive line depth they have, but he remains their best interior rusher. Myron Pryor especially would help ease the blow of losing Wright for any significant period of time, but it look like the Pats are finally set up to use Wright as he should be used. Hopefully that will keep him healthy, if he can get back on the field. Wright has the ability to make life for the edge rusher a lot easier.
4. Dane Fletcher - I said all off-season that I expected Fletcher to challenge Gary Guyton as the top coverage linebacker next to Jerod Mayo this year and his performance in the Jaguars game only reinforced that. Fletch looked primed to break out before sustaining a thumb injury against the Buccaneers. It doesn’t look like it should hold him back for long, hopefully he’ll get a chance to knock the rust off before the games start to count. If he and Spikes can return to the field it will give the Pats multiple options especially on passing downs.
5. Ryan Wendell - As we saw with Gerald McCoy’s hit on Tommy last week Dan Connolly still has his moments that make you wonder if he’s really that entrenched as the starting right guard. Not to say that I’m entirely confident that Wendell is a much better option, but choices and competition are good. Ideally I’d like to see Marcus Cannon end up there once he’s 100% cleared, but it might be 2012 before we see that. I expect this to be a spot the Pats could look to address over the Labor Day Weekend cutdown madness.