New England Patriots backup linebacker Dane Fletcher figures to steal some snaps from starter Brandon Spikes in sub-package situations, as Fletcher is a solid coverage LB while Spikes has some issues in that regard. Fletcher had an absolutely amazing Week 1 preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles, as he looked assured in coverage and stout against the run. Although Jamie Collins is deservedly generating plenty of buzz (he had a good game on Friday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers), a potential, small breakout season from Dane Fletcher shouldn’t be overlooked. He missed all of last season with an ACL tear that he suffered in the first preseason game, but he is back on track and better than ever this year.
Bill Belichick had this to say about Fletcher’s recovery and work ethic, “Dane has worked really hard. He worked hard last season during the fall, after the surgery. While everybody else was playing, he was working hard in the weight room and rehabbing. He had a full spring. Fortunately for this year, the injury occurred early last year so he had almost a full calendar year to rehab it. Btu he worked very hard and diligently on that. I think he’s moving well. I think his play has improved. I think he has a lot of confidence in his physical ability and he hasn’t missed anything. He’s been out there all spring, all training camp. He’s had a big role for us in the kicking game. He’s played well definitely so I think he’s had a real good comeback from that injury. ”
Belichick notes Fletcher’s key role on special teams with this quote, but it will be interesting to see what Fletcher’s role will be on defense. I will say that I am a big fan of the talent and depth the Patriots have at linebacker, and the Pats ability to cover the middle of the field will be much improved with Collins in the fold and a healthy Dane Fletcher.
Will Svitek is a solid swing tackle and has a nice, niche role as a backup on the Patriots offensive line, and the Patriots have been using him as a guard in preseason games. Marcus Cannon and Dan Connolly are the duo battling it out for starting right guard duties, but both have been injured, leaving Svitek with the starting snaps at right guard.
It is clear that Svitek is a better tackle than guard, and he struggled at guard against the Bucs before righting the ship at tackle. But the fact that Svitek can play guard definitely boosts his stock, and he could be an emergency starter for this team at the position. I don’t anticipate either Cannon or Connolly missing regular season time, but you never know in this league.
Belichick noted Svitek’s increased value as a result of his playing guard and went into detail on the Stanford product, “Good. He hasn’t had a whole lot of experience at guard prior to this year, this camp, but he’s handled it very well. Smart guy, adjusts quickly, has a lot of experience playing tackle and understands the whole offensive line system and communication, how everything works together. He’s done a good job. It wasn’t something we were planning on doing but it worked out that way. He’s certainly increased his value to the team by showing that he can play two positions when we were kind of just looking at it as tackle, both left and right tackle, but he’s also shown that he can play guard. He’s helped himself on that. It’s helped our team.”