Could Michael Buchanan be next in line when it comes to Patriots seventh-round success stories?
That was one thought that came to mind after closing the book on the team's preseason opener against the Eagles. While maintaining the important balance of not putting too much stock into one exhibition game, but also digging in on more than 80 defensive snaps, Buchanan was one under-the-radar player who stood out in the "arrow-is-pointing-up" category.
A few thoughts on the former Illinois pass-rusher:
1. The first thing that stands out is his size. At 6-foot-6 and 255 pounds, and with 34-inch arm length, his physical presence on the left edge is a noticeable difference compared to the team's other reserve ends. He looks the part.
2. He played a lot on Friday. Buchanan was on the field for 58 defensive snaps and first came on to the field with the second-unit sub defense. In comparison, 2012 third-round pick Jake Bequette (32-inch arm length) was on for 33. It's always dangerous to read too much into preseason playing time, but I still found that discrepancy notable.
3. Diversity in pass-rush moves. No young pass-rusher has it all figured out, but Buchanan showed a variety of pass rushes. His combination of power and speed showed up multiple times against second- and third-unit blockers. He pushed the pocket pretty consistently off the left edge (Rob Ninkovich's spot).
4. Athleticism to drop into coverage. More often than not, Buchanan was pass-rushing out of a three-point stance, but there were a few times when he was in a two-point stance as more of an outside linebacker. At one point, he dropped into coverage. Pass coverage can often be a challenging transition for a rookie defensive end who mostly rushed in college. Some early signs from Buchanan that he might be able to handle it.
5. Strength to set the edge. When Buchanan was called on to set the edge in the running game, there were several plays in which he was effective, playing with good technique by controlling second- and third-unit blockers with his hands and long reach. He also showed the ability to shed and tackle. His length can give him an edge over a smaller end in terms of reading and diagnosing a running play.
6. It was far from perfect. As one would expect, Buchanan had some rocky moments. He lost containment on an 8-yard Matt Barkley quarterback run in the second quarter, and was penalized for illegal hands to the face (declined) in the fourth quarter when he might have been tiring. Those are good teaching points for him going forward. But overall, it looked like a nice start for the 226th overall pick in the draft.