BOSTON (CBS) — When the Patriots traded for Michael Bennett in the offseason, many expected that he would fill the void left by Trey Flowers’ departure. The 33-year-old has made a career out of hitting opposing quarterbacks, averaging over eight sacks per season over the last seven years.
But to sack the quarterback, a player needs to be on the field. And through the first six weeks of the season, Bennett has seen his snap count drop considerably. He played just 11 defensive snaps Thursday night against the New York Giants, his lowest total of the season. Most of those snaps came late in the game when the game was in hand for the Patriots.
Bennett saw the field for 37 plays in Week 1, or 55 percent of New England’s defensive snaps. He’s played just 25 snaps total over the last two games.
It’s a bit odd, considering the Patriots sent a fifth-round pick to Philadelphia for Bennett, and then gave the professional quarterback hunter a raise. Not even Bennett can explain the phenomenon of his missing playing time, saying you’d have to ask the guy in charge, Bill Belichick.
“I don’t know what’s happening,” the veteran told Greg Bedard of The Boston Sports Journal following Thursday’s win over the Giants. “You have to ask Bill. I wish I knew. If I had a better answer, I would tell you.
“You’ve got to ask them, man,” he continued. “I’m just trying to do what they ask me to do.”
It’s not that the defense has really needed Bennett so far. The unit is an absolute wagon, racking up 25 sacks over their first six games and holding opponents to just three touchdowns. Eight players have at least two sacks on the roster, including Bennett, who has 2.5 of them in his limited time.
Bedard described Bennett as indifferent in his comments on Thursday, but it has to bug him that players like Deatrich Wise Jr. and rookie Chase Winovich are out-snapping him at the moment. Perhaps the Patriots are just saving Bennett for the stretch run of the season, but if his playing time continues to decline (if that’s even possible), the vet may get a little more grumpy about the situation. Bedard also pontificates that Bennett and his $6.5 million cap hit could be trade bait for the Patriots, as they look to add some help on offense ahead of the Oct. 29 deadline.
Whatever the situation may be, it will be one to monitor going forward.