FOXBOROUGH -- For the majority of Michael Bennett's 11-year NFL career, he's been one of the best players on his team and played a ton of snaps.
That doesn't appear to be the case this year, his first in New England.
The 33-year-old defensive end has been more of a situational pass rusher for the Patriots, which currently is the best defense in the NFL, allowing 6.8 points per game.
Over five games, Bennett has played 38 percent of the snaps, which is a huge change from his past two seasons when he played 70 percent of the snaps with the Eagles last year, and close to 85 percent of the snaps with the Seahawks in 2017.
“Michael’s a smart player,” Bill Belichick said Tuesday. “He’s got a lot of experience. He’s been in different systems, so he’s kind of adapting to our system, but we’ve also talked to him about some of the things that he’s done. He obviously has a lot of experience and a lot of input, not just against individual players, but also schematically.
“So he’s been good. He’s really tried hard and worked hard to embrace what we’ve asked him to do, which is quite different from what he’s done in Seattle and Philly and even in Tampa.”
Despite the reduced playing time, Bennett has still been able to make an impact. The veteran has five tackles and 2.5 sacks so far this season.Part of the reason for Bennett's reduction of playing time is just how deep the Patriots defense is and how many players are getting a chance to play. Heading into Week 6 against the Giants, 20 Patriots players have logged at least 20 percent of the defensive snaps.
"We’ve played a lot of players,” Belichick said. “So I’m not sure whose snap count’s up. I don’t know. Maybe you guys can tell me that. We rotate a lot. I mean, we’ve played 20 players on defense the last four or five weeks. So naturally, when you start splitting it up between 20 guys, that’s what you’re going to get. Show me how many teams play 20 players on defense. I don’t know. There’s not too many.”
It will be worth watching if that changes when the games start to mean more later in the season, but for now the team is playing a lot of players and that means a limited role for a player like Bennett.