I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself but I have high hopes for Dane Fletcher after seeing his role to continue increase over the course of the season.
Early on we saw him as just a spy, his only responsibility to stay with the running back in pass coverage. But lately he’s been employed differently. As part of a 3-3-5 nickel package where he was used both as a blitzer (see below) and in coverage.
We even saw Fletcher get some time at outside linebacker in the 34 base defense in the Jets game. Now with Jermaine Cunningham out against the Bills will we see more of Fletcher today? We’ll see.
But what is clear is that Fletcher has demonstrated he’s a quick reactor, he can cover, he can blitz. Now if he can learn to set the edge, and be stout against the run, he could turn into a three down linebacker for the Patriots.
Of course setting the edge is not something that many rookies have the strength or technique to do, Jermaine Cunningham being an exception.
But with Fletcher coming from a small school, as a hand-down defensive end, his progress has already been impressive.
Give him an offseason with a professional training and coaching staff and it should be interesting to see what Fletcher can do in 2011.
Check out this article from the Boston Globe today for a little more on Fletcher. Great story!