Eric Lee, Patriots’ New Defensive End, Makes Early Impact In NFL Debut

FOXBORO, Mass. — As recently as last Tuesday, Eric Lee was plugging away on the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad, hoping for a call-up on a team that quickly was falling out of playoff contention in the AFC.

Less than a week later, the young defensive end was playing — and playing well — for the defending Super Bowl champions.

Signed away from Buffalo by the New England Patriots following Cassius Marsh’s release, Lee made his NFL debut Sunday against the Miami Dolphins. It wasn’t just a cameo on special teams or in garbage time, either. The second-year pro played 25 defensive snaps for the Patriots, tallying four tackles and one sack in a 35-17 win at Gillette Stadium.

“It was pretty hectic the past week for me, but I was able to jell with the defense and execute when it counts,” said Lee, who initially signed with the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent in 2016. “I didn’t have much time to reflect this week. There were a lot of meetings, a lot of extra meetings. It’s been pretty hectic. But (Saturday) was my first time to take a deep breath. We didn’t have practice, so it was more of a mental day to help focus on today.”

Lee first made his presence felt on a Trey Flowers sack late in the second quarter. He pushed Dolphins right tackle Sam Young backward with a bull rush, cutting off quarterback Matt Moore’s space and allowing Flowers to drag Moore to the turf. Three plays later, cornerback Stephon Gilmore intercepted a pass intended for DeVante Parker in the end zone — a huge momentum swing just before halftime.

In the fourth quarter, Lee notched a sack of his own, running a stunt with defensive tackle Adam Butler that allowed him to breeze past left guard Ted Larsen.

Lee’s sack was the seventh of the day for the Patriots, who had totaled just 17 sacks over their first 10 games of the season.

“It was riveting,” Lee said. “What goes through your body when you get a sack is overwhelming. You just want to express yourself. I’ll try to build on top of this, obviously, but it was great.”

Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images

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