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Patriots defensive end Jermaine Cunningham hasn't seen much game action this season.After being on the field for more than half of New England's total defensive snaps during his rookie campaign, second-year defensive end Jermaine Cunningham has been limited to a mere 32 snaps (9.5 percent of total defensive snaps) this season.
So why hasn't the second-round pick (53rd overall) had a bigger role in the game plan this season?
"I think one of the things that Jermaine has had to work through is the time he missed in training camp and the preseason," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who noted Cunningham also had to deal with the transition from playing outside linebacker in last year's 3-4 scheme, to being a defensive end in New England's 4-3 base defense this season.
"This year we transitioned to a little bit more multiple defensive front, and that's been an adjustment for him. Missing that time didn't help him any. He's worked hard and done a good job to get back on the field -- getting rehab and getting back out there. I think he's improving. He's gotten a little better each week. He's definitely on the upswing here. He's a guy that we hop will be able to contribute for us."
Cunningham played a season-high 16 snaps in a Week 4 win over Oakland, but then logged just eight snaps against the Jets on Sunday. After not appearing in the season-opener in Miami due to a lingering groin injury, Cunningham played just one snap in Week 2 and had eight total snaps through Week 3.
Cunningham started 11 games in 15 appearances last season, registering 35 tackles (27 solo) and forcing two fumbles. He registered his first and only tackle of the 2011 season Sunday against the Jets.