FOXBORO, Mass. — Count Dane Fletcher among the Patriots' defensive players who love the transition to a heavier dose of a 4-3 base defense.
Fletcher has the positional flexibility to play all three spots in sets with three linebackers, and he has made the most of an increased level of chances through two games in his second season. The undrafted Montana State product has five tackles (three solo) and is tied for the team lead with three quarterback hits.
Fletcher followed in the footsteps of Patriots legend Tedy Bruschi while transitioning from a defensive end in college to inside linebacker in the NFL. Fletcher was inside in the Patriots' 3-4 sets as a rookie, and has primarily lined up at middle linebacker this season in the 4-3, though he's also spent some time outside.
"I'm just trying to get in and do my role, really, find my role on this defense still," Fletcher said. "What is that? It's for the coaches to decide. I'm just playing hard and doing whatever I can to get out there.
"I can play all of the positions as far as nickel and regular on the inside, so I'm just flexible for whatever they see fit."
Front-seven players almost always love the 4-3 more than the 3-4 because it typically gives them more of an opportunity to chase after the ball, rather than staying home in a zone control. From Fletcher's point of view, he's free from having to take on bigger guards, and he can roam a little more in the second level before attacking the ball carrier, whether it's the quarterback or running back.
The linebackers can let the Patriots' talented defensive linemen go to work and take it from there.
"It gives you a little bit more freedom where you can play a little more 'see ball, get ball' kind of concept," Fletcher said. "We've got some great D-linemen. We let those guys get up field and do what they get paid to do, so we'll feed off of them."
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