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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