By now, I am sure that all of you have heard the terrible news that linebacker Dane Fletcher tore his ACL in the New England Patriots first preseason game. Fletcher, who had 37 tackles in 12 games last season, is likely out for entire 2012 season; we can only wish for a speedy recovery.
Last season, Fletcher was out for six weeks with a severe thumb injury that required two surgeries. He was the backup right behind Brandon Spikes, so his injury really hurts the Pats depth at the position. Bobby Carpenter can come in and backup Spikes, but there is no doubt that the 25-year-old Fletcher is the better player at this stage. Carpenter is a versatile veteran, but he is not quite as good as Fletcher overall- especially not against the run.
In addition to recording 37 tackles last season, Fletcher also had seven hits on the quarterback and was easily one of the team’s best five linebackers. He has the ability to play both inside and outside, but he is better inside whereas Carpenter is a bit better outside.
Dane Fletcher was injured in the Saints game after falling to the ground while joining the punting unit after the offense failed to get a first down. He was aided back to the locker room where the terrible news was announced. He is a key backup for the Pats with his versatility and produced some good numbers last season in year two. This isn’t the worst injury for the team as he is a backup, but it is a terrible injury for Fletcher. Hopefully he returns sooner than expected, but I always fear the worst with serious injuries. And even though Fletcher isn’t a starter, he is still a key bench player for this team.
Without the Montana State product, there will be more snaps in line for Carpenter, who, again, isn’t quite up to Fletcher’s level of play. He is an adequate backup, but you would ideally like to have a younger and more talented guy in an immediate backup role. It will be interesting to see how things move forward for the backups and if the alignments change due to the loss of a scheme versatile player like Fletcher.