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New England Patriots blitz: DE Michael Buchanan is making big strides

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The New England Patriots didn’t have much positive to take from Thursday night’s 23-6 loss to the Washington Redskins. One of the few bright spots was the play of second-year defensive end Michael Buchanan. Last year’s seventh-round pick had the team’s only sack and was very active around the quarterback. According to a report by the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe Saturday, Buchanan could transition into the rotational pass rusher the team lacked last season.

Buchanan has certainly prepared himself physically for the task. The young defensive end has bulked up in the offseason and has continued to improve his understanding of the game. Head coach Bill Belichick would love if Buchanan does emerge as a pass rusher who can be a consistent backup to defensive ends Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. Belichick has been impressed with Buchanan’s continued growth.

“(Buchanan) had a good offseason in the weight room, and has gained some strength, and a little bit of bulk, and still runs well and is athletic,” said Belichick. “Overall, he’s built on his first-year experiences and knowledge and is in the process of taking a jump his second year.”

If Buchanan makes a major jump, it may come at the expense of veteran defensive end Will Smith. The 33-year-old veteran is one of three players in competition with Buchanan to add depth to the defensive end position. The other players are rookie Zach Moore and Jake Bequette. So far the product out of Illinois seems to have the inside track, especially if he continues to be very active around the quarterback when he is in the game. Belichick further complimented Buchanan’s intelligence.

He said, “Mike, I think, is certainly way ahead of where he was last year as a rookie. I think he’s improved in his overall understanding of the game and understanding of the defense and the kicking game.”

At 6-foot-5, 255 pounds, Buchanan definitely provides the physical presence, speed and athleticism the team is looking for. He still has much to improve on as far as polishing his game, but he’s certainly headed in the right direction and if he seizes the opportunity, he could earn more snaps during the season. That is, if he makes the team.