Cassius Marsh Growing Into Rob Ninkovich-Type Role For Patriots

FOXBORO, Mass. — Cassius Marsh’s New England Patriots tenure did not get off to the greatest start.

Traded from the Seattle Seahawks just days before the Patriots’ season opener, Marsh was thrust into action in Week 1 after linebacker/edge rusher Dont’a Hightower went down with a knee injury. Understandably, Marsh struggled, allowing a long touchdown pass to Kareem Hunt in a blowout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Since that game, however, his trajectory has pointed upward.

The 25-year-old defensive end/outside linebacker has become more and more accustomed to New England’s defensive scheme over the past seven weeks, playing a role similar to the one Rob Ninkovich filled before his retirement this past summer.

“There are a lot of variables at that spot,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday morning. “It’s similar to what Rob did for us. He has some coverage responsibilities, different responsibilities in the running game, multiple responsibilities in the passing game, pass rush, man coverage, zone coverage. It’s part linebacker, part defensive end.

“So there’s quite a bit to that position, but he’s done a good job of getting better at it every week, being a little more comfortable. And a lot of that involves other players, too — safeties, inside linebackers, the guys that are adjacent to him — how he fits with them, what those responsibilities are. He’s done a good job of picking that up. He works hard. He’s a smart kid. He plays hard. He’s got a good motor.”

Marsh has played more than 50 percent of defensive snaps in each of the Patriots’ last three games, including a career-high 77.2 percent in Sunday night’s 23-7 win over the Atlanta Falcons. He also leads all Patriots players in special teams snaps and blocked a field goal against the Falcons.

Expect Marsh to see plenty more playing time this Sunday as the Patriots host the Los Angeles Chargers, especially if Hightower, who left the Atlanta game with a shoulder injury, is unable to suit up.

“There’s still a lot of things for him to learn and process, and there are new situations that come up every week,” Belichick said. “Certainly, a team like the Chargers will present those with their multiple formations and multiple blocking schemes, things like that that are — I don’t care if you’ve played 10 years, they still have a lot. So if you’ve only been in the system for a half a season, there are going to be some things that are going to be challenging for the entire defense, but especially for guys that are a little bit newer to the system.

“But he’s done a good job. Each week, it gets better, and he works really hard at it. Not there yet, but definitely making progress.”

Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images

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