New England Patriots helmet sits on the field before start of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots cut Marcus Benard, wrong decision?

The New England Patriots are making some significant cuts right now, and Marcus Benard is the most recent roster casualty in the crunchdown to 53. Benard joins Jake Ballard, Daniel Fells, Kamar Aiken, and Ras-I Dowling as notable players to be cut by the Patriots this week, and Benard’s release is an interesting one to take a look at. The move, by the way, was reported by Pro Football Talk.

Michael Buchanan had a whale of a game last night against the New York Giants, and the seventh-round pick out of Illinois (he really should have been selected in the fourth or fifth round, but I’m not going to complain) has locked up a roster spot after that 2.5-sack performance. He was previously neck-and-neck with Jake Bequette for a roster spot, and both players seemed to be behind Marcus Benard, who once recorded 7.5 sacks in a season as a 3-4 OLB for the Cleveland Browns.

Benard was the most consistent backup defensive end on the roster this offseason, and he almost made good on his tag as a sleeper to make the 53-man roster. The edge rusher also had a really nice game against the Giants with a sack, but Bequette also recorded a sack. Benard could have been a useful piece for the Patriots at DE, because he can be the kind of pass rushing specialist who can bring solid pressure on the quarterback.

A big worry for the Patriots, though, must have been scheme fit, because Marcus Benard, like Jermaine Cunningham, projects better as a 3-4 OLB than a 4-3 DE. The Patriots also do this incredibly annoying wrinkle on passing downs where they bring in an edge rusher at DT in order to rush the passer in sub-packages, and it absolutely never works out. Don’t tell me that Cunningham benefited from that, because he obviously didn’t. The Patriots also used this with Benard at points during the preseason, and it never worked out either. Benard is clearly not a good run defender as a 4-3 DE, but he is versatile, a quality pass rusher, and he can cover too.

While seeing Benard go is tough, cutting him does make some sense for the Patriots. First off, he’s significantly older than Jake Bequette (for all intents and purposes, Bequette- and not Buchanan- was his main source of competition for a roster spot), and he doesn’t fit the Patriots scheme as well as Bequette does. Although he is better than Bequette right now, maybe the Patriots didn’t see it that way either after evaluating film from the preseason and last night.

This was most likely a tough cut for the New England Patriots to make, and you could make compelling cases for or against this move. But, ultimately, Benard was not a lock for the roster, even if I truly thought he deserved a spot. I’m sure Benard will find another team shortly, and I hope he can sign on with a team that runs the 3-4 and could use another OLB; Benard would fit there perfectly. He already showed this preseason that he can still play after being out of football for some time, and Marcus Benard had to have been thisclose to making the New England Patriots final roster.

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  • Gary Wolff

    Seeing Ballard and Fells go means that Gronk will not be on PUP…. And it may mean that the Patriots keep their full back. Seeing Bernard go surprises me because I am so down on Bequette…. He apparently will make the cut though. On the left side, against the Giants backups, he did hold his own and make a couple of plays…. Other than the 2nd half of last nights game however, he is invisible out there. He sets the edge for the most part, which has some value… But he doesn’t pressure the QB and he doesn’t make any tackles… So what’s his value?

    I thought Ballard made the team as a blocker and a safety net until Gronk came off PUP, at which time he would have been released. To me, this is good news as Gronk must be progressing well. I’m sure many teams in the league are very happy to have both Fells and Ballard hit the market

    • Joe Soriano

      Completely agree with your thoughts on Gronk, and I also believe that Benard is a better player than Bequette. However, the Patriots may have been looking at scheme fit as a reason for taking Bequette, as he is a better run defender and is a more natural fit as a 4-3 DE. It is a tougher pick than it would be if we were looking at pure play in August, because Bequette has the advantages of being younger and fitting the scheme better. It sucks seeing Benard go, but it’s not a truly surprising cut either.

      • Gary Wolff

        I need to back off my Bequette criticism… I guess I’m taking his lack of production a little too personally… as when they drafted him I thought he was going to develop into an above average player, so I guess I’m extra critical of his lack of development.
        He did play much better on the left side. He was able to get the defenders hands off him and re-adjust his leverage and disrupt some plays… On the right side, he got locked up and was taken out of the play almost immediately and for good.
        I hope he proves me wrong, makes the team, and does well. I’d love to see it.

        Great news about Gronk though….or at least implied news. They must feel he’ll be ready before week 7 and thus want him to be able to practice and not be isolated to the weight room while on PUP….
        I got the ol’ man-crush on Gronk — He’s just so dominant, and so much fun to watch… He’s on the same page with Brady, and it just makes the game so much more intriguing to me when he’s out there and healthy. Love those white gloves…:-)

        • Joe Soriano

          Every Pats fan loves Gronk, except for some of the uber-cynical commenters on the Boston Herald. You know, the people who wanted him traded because they’re like, “Partying? I ain’t no fan of none of this here partying! Football players ain’t human bein’s, they meant to work out in they spare time!”

          As far as Bequette goes, he’s shown no development since last season, but I don’t give up on players until they play three seasons (which is why I wanted the Pats to keep Dowling, but health is a difference case, too).

      • Paul V. Suffriti

        I had a feeling that the coaching staff saw something in Bequette that they could develop into a solid backup player…..that’s why I was not sold on the idea that he would not make the team.