New England Patriots: Could DE Marcus Benard Be A Sleeper On Defense?

By Will Gellman
Marcus Benard
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots have a solid defensive line for 2013.  As of right now, their starting core consists of guys like Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. However, one guy that very few people are giving any credit to this year is DE Marcus Benard.

Benard, an undrafted free agent in 2009 out of Jackson State, started his NFL career with the Cleveland Browns. Although he was limited to 25 games in three seasons with Cleveland, he recorded 45 tackles and 11.5 sacks. Those numbers do not look very impressive on paper, but that is mostly because he did not become a full-time starter until his second season in 2010.

In that season, he played in 15 games with 15 tackles and 7.5 sacks. After that season, however, his career took a dramatic turn for the worst. In October of 2011, he was involved in a motorcycle crash that left him with a broken arm, along with other injuries. He came back in the 2012 preseason, only to be released by the Browns after he dislocated his elbow.

As you can see, Benard was well on his way to being a star in the NFL until he was hit with a string of bad luck. Both Benard and the Patriots are now hoping that his luck has finally turned around in a positive way, allowing him to make a comeback in the league.

Although Benard does not project as a starting DE for the team, he could play a role similar to what Mark Anderson did in 2011, playing in a three-man rotation with Jones and Ninkovich. This opportunity might be all that the 28-year-old needs to revive his reputation as a fierce pass rusher, especially if Jones or Ninkovich were to get hurt at some point.

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