DEFENSIVE ENDS: Cunningham's time?

DEFENSIVE ENDS: Cunningham's time?
July 11, 2013, 12:00 pm
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Each day until the start of training camp Mary Paoletti will preview a position on the Patriots. Yesterday, she previewed the defensive tackles. Today it's the defensive ends. Check back in tomorrow for corners.

Rob Ninkovich - 8th season
Jermaine Cunningham - 4th season
Chandler Jones - 2nd season
Jake Bequette - 2nd season
Justin Francis - 2nd season
Jason Vega - 1st season
Marcus Benard - 4th season
Michael Buchanan - Rookie
News of note: Jermaine Cunningham approaches yet another season on the bubble. The pressure he faces is compounded by the fact this is the final year of the 25-year-old's rookie contract. He's tough to peg. Just when Cunningham seemed to be building steam in 2012, getting snaps in each of the first 11 games, he was slapped with a suspension for PED's and appeared to have a difficult time bouncing back after the four-game ban. 
There are plenty of guys who will try and take advantage. 
It's easy to forget New England spent a third-round pick on Jake Bequette last year since he was inactive for 13 regular season games. But that kind of investment is expected to mature, so he should make his way back to the roster. The equation is not that simple, of course. Michael Buchanan, out of Illinois, and Jason Vega, who impressed in the CFL last year, should not be overlooked. Both are wild cards who could impress enough during training camp to throw off the numbers game. Throw in veteran Marcus Benard, who has much to prove after a motorcycle accident basically wiped out his last two NFL seasons, and the competition here should be fierce.