FOXBORO, Mass. — You may not know it from how they’re playing, but the 2013 Patriots defense looks almost identical to last season’s.
There’s only one newcomer among the team’s 11 starters and just three newbies in the team’s 14-man rotation on defense. Tommy Kelly is the only new starter this season, and rookies Michael Buchanan and Joe Vellano are the only new rotational guys.
That continuity on defense could be viewed as intimidating for new players, especially rookies. But Buchanan said fitting into last year’s defense has been helpful.
“Yeah, it definitely does,” Buchanan said. “Being near guys you know are very experienced and do a lot of talking, it kind of helps me out sometimes when things start moving fast. It definitely helps me out a lot playing with all the veterans we have and all the great players we have on defense.”
Buchanan has played 27 snaps this season, according to Pro Football Focus. Most of those snaps have come at right defensive end in the 4-3 on third down. He also played some five-technique defensive end when the team went to a 3-4 alignment, which is rare for a player of Buchanan’s size.
Buchanan is 6-foot-6, 255 pounds. Most players who play defensive end in a 3-4 are closer to 300 pounds. Buchanan admitted he was raw coming out of Illinois, which may explain why the team is only starting him off as a pass rusher. He’s played 22 snaps against the pass and five against the run, according to Pro Football Focus.