New England Patriots Continue to Re-Work Front Seven


In the midst of all the DeflateGate chaos, business has carried on as usual for the New England Patriots. The Patriots have continued to toy with the defense over the past few days, releasing defensive end Michael Buchanon and hosting former Patriot linebackers Brandon Spikes and Dane Fletcher.

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After the drafting of three defensive ends, Buchanon’s future in New England was shrouded in doubt. Geneo Grissom and Trey Flowers certainly offer more upside than Buchanon, and seventh-round pick Xzavier Dickson isn’t too far behind them.

An injury-shortened 2014 season also hindered Buchanon as the Patriots’ brass decided to revamp depth personnel at defensive end in the 2015 NFL Draft. Since being taken by the Pats in the seventh round back in 2013, Buchanon has recorded eleven tackles and two sacks in 18 games.

Hopefully, at least one of the three defensive ends the Patriots drafted last week will break into the rotation and surpass Buchanon’s sack total in the first few weeks of the season. In addition to the rookies, the acquisition of free agent defensive end Jabaal Sheard made Buchanon expendable.

Shifting to visiting linebackers Spikes and Fletcher, it seems pretty likely that at least one, possibly both, will be signed.

Spikes’ expertise defending the run could lessen the blow of losing the run-stuffing presence of Vince Wilfork. Although it looked like bridges were burned after the Pats-Spikes 2013 breakup, Spikes has made it known that he would play for Bill Belichick again.

Like Spikes, the Patriots procured Fletcher from the 2010 rookie class (Spikes was a second-round selection while Fletcher went undrafted). He had developed into a dependable cog in the Pats’ defense by the end of the 2013 season, making a real difference in the Patriots’ comeback victory over the Broncos (remember that game when they were down 24-0 at the half?).

Depth behind Jerod Mayo, Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower is needed. Bringing back an old pal would be an easy way to address that problem.

View the release of Buchanon and the hosting of Spikes and Fletcher as indicators that the Patriots are continuing to emphasize the front seven in the wake of the Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner departures.

That was a nice little break from DeflateGate, wasn’t it?