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Friday, June 15, 2012
Shining a spotlight on edge rushers

By Mike Rodak

With third-round pick Jake Bequette reportedly agreeing to terms on his rookie contract on Thursday evening, it provides an opportunity to check on Bequette's progress this offseason, as well as all of the team's defensive ends. The following is a snapshot look at where these players stand after OTAs and minicamp:

Rob Ninkovich -- After starting 16 games last season at strong-side linebacker in the 4-3 defense, it appears that Ninkovich is set for another position change. The versatile defender has played inside and outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense, and now could shift back to a 4-3 defensive end. In minicamp, he took a significant number of snaps as a would-be sub rusher.

Trevor Scott -- Along with Ninkovich at left end, Scott also spent much of minicamp at right defensive end, standing (kneeling) in as a sub rusher in 7-on-7 drills. While he played some weak-side linebacker three seasons ago with the Raiders, as well as special teams, Scott was almost exclusively used as an edge defender in offseason practices.

Chandler Jones -- Lining up as an edge rusher for considerable reps in OTAs and minicamps, Jones had one glaring attribute: his length. With long arms and legs, it looked like Jones was a basketball player who sneaked onto the practice fields. With live contact, one area to monitor will be how Jones uses his length against blockers and to disrupt passing lanes.

Jake Bequette -- Stouter than Jones, Bequette was part of a rotation at defensive end in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. While it's difficult to gauge pass-rushing ability during non-contact practices, Bequette did register a would-be sack during minicamp.

Jermaine Cunningham -- After a quiet 2011 season, Cunningham saw a heavy workload during OTAs, and earlier this week, head coach Bill Belichick lauded the third-year defender for having a "great offseason." However, Cunningham was not spotted on the practice fields in team drills on Wednesday and on Thursday was seen leaving the field after an apparent injury rehab session in the team's indoor practice facility.

Justin Francis -- The Rutgers product has seen his name pop up during OTAs and minicamp, and would appear to have the early edge on being the 'annual' undrafted rookie to emerge during the preseason. Francis appears to be slightly bulkier than his counterparts, and might have the ability to slide inside as an interior sub rusher.