The New England Patriots decided to take a chance on a reclamation project early in the offseason by signing former Cleveland Browns 3-4 OLB Marcus Benard to a futures contract, and Benard has made plenty of noise in camp thus far. Going into training camp, I had Benard as a sleeper to make the roster given his pass rushing prowess and pedigree (he had 7.5 sacks with the Browns one year). Despite not playing for a while since that unfortunate motorcycle accident that derailed his career, Benard hasn’t shown any signs of rust and has surpassed every expectation of him. As of right now, I have Benard snagging the last defensive end spot available, and I actually have him on my roster above Jermaine Cunningham.
Marcus Benard also seems to bring the right attitude as a pass rusher, and he had an excellent quote today that had some vivid imagery. Via MassLive.com’s Nick Underhill, “I start sniffing, I start smelling quarterbacks, my eyes turn red and I’m ready to go.”
This is absolutely awesome, and it makes me want to see him snag a roster spot even more. Benard isn’t as good of a fit as a 4-3 DE as other players due to his lack of size, and that’s because he is a more natural fit as a 3-4 OLB. But he still seems to be an effective enough pass rusher as a DE to be able to get a roster spot as a quality rotational backup, even if his run defense could be a liability due to his lack of size (his run D as a 3-4 OLB is about par for the course). Benard, however, will have show he can be a 4-3 DE during preseason games, because that’s the best way the Patriots can evaluate how he fits the system. As Bill Belichick said, 1-on-1s (where Benard has done his damage) are nice, but they are only part of the picture and don’t exactly tell how a player fits, especially as it relates to scheme and playing off of more than one potential blocker.
I do have confidence in Benard, though, and you really have to love that quote above. That’s the kind of mentality you want in every pass rusher, and I also have a feeling that Chandler Jones feels the same way.