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Monday, August 2, 2010
Schobel situation worthy of attention

By Mike Reiss

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The situation involving veteran defensive end Aaron Schobel and the Buffalo Bills is worthy of monitoring from a Patriots perspective.

The Bills announced this morning that they are moving on without Schobel.

If Schobel is released, and decides he is not retiring, he could be exactly what the Patriots need.

With Derrick Burgess contemplating retirement, the Patriots have a question mark at rush defensive end/outside linebacker. Five players are currently on the roster at that spot: Tully Banta-Cain, Jermaine Cunningham, Rob Ninkovich, Pierre Woods and Marques Murrell.

Of the group, Banta-Cain was called a "leader" by coach Bill Belichick on Monday morning. Cunningham is a second-round draft choice who shows some early promise. Ninkovich, Woods and Murrell have primarily been special teams contributors to this point, with Woods seeing the most time in the regular defense (20 percent of the snaps in 2009).

If the Patriots could sign Schobel, he would immediately become their top rush defensive end in sub packages. Considering the Patriots were in sub packages 50 percent of the time in 2009, that would be a big addition.

Schobel has been a pure 4-3 defensive end over his career, so there would be a learning curve in terms of him playing outside linebacker in the 3-4 alignment, where setting the edge against the run is a top responsibility.

But if the Patriots pursue him, it's hard to imagine they'd be relying on him much in that type of role. They'd want him to rush the passer, where he could potentially answer one of the team's top question marks.