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Get to Know New England Patriots DE/OLB Jermaine Cunningham

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Surprise, surprise. The New England Patriots were known to be attempting to fix their pass rush in the draft- although the masses were calling out picks like Ricky Sapp, Koa Misi, Sergio Kindle and others. Cunningham was a player not even on my radar.

Cunningham brings a versatility that has been missing from our defensive midfield. All other OLBs were only two play players- they could rush the passer, but that's really it. Cunningham, with his 6-3, 266 frame, can play with his hand down and be on the field for three plays each set. His size allows him to rush the quarterback and stop the run while his athleticism lets him drop back into short coverage.

Cunningham steps up his game when he's playing better teams- and he'll be facing better teams in the NFL. He was the most consistent player on the Florida Gators' defense not named Brandon Spikes or Joe Haden. He has a toughness that the Patriots love since he has played through injuries during his time in college.

More information after the jump!

CBS Sports Analysis

Three year starter.

Pass rush: Good initial burst off the snap and can pressure the outside shoulder of offensive tackles.

Run defense: Shows good lateral agility to control the edge. Understands his role in containment.

Explosion: Flashes initial explosiveness off the snap as a pass rusher.

Strength: Good initial pop to disengage, but lacks the strength to hold up if his first attempt fails.

Tackling: Rangy defender with long, strong arms he uses effectively for drag-down tackles. Developed a knack for knocking the ball loose as a junior due to active hands.

Intangibles:Showed toughness as a junior playing through a hyper-extended knee to start all 14 games; also played through a shoulder injury in 2009 on which he had surgery after the season. Voted a team captain as a junior in 2008. Arrested in December 2007 for misdemeanor battery after an altercation with a sandwich store employee.

Click the link for a more in-depth player analysis!

NFL.com Analysis

Cunningham was the Gators' most disruptive defender in 2009 and has great initial quickness and agility to make plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage. He doesn't have outstanding speed but is athletic enough to be a versatile defender as an outside linebacker or end at the next level. He is still developing his pass rush package but has the natural ability to be effective in the NFL. He lacks the bulk to be an effective take-on defender but is a high-motor player that should contribute on special teams and sub packages in his rookie season.

Analysis:

  • Does a great job of sealing off passing lanes.
  • Can get handled by offensive tackles.
  • Great second effort.
  • Eye always on the ball.
  • Good job reading plays.
  • Linemen can push him out of position.
  • Tries to anticipate where the ball will be going, which can lead to him completely missing the play.
  • Strong player coming up the middle.
  • Better when given space to anticipate opposing blockers.

While I didn't spend too much time looking at Jermaine Cunningham, he has a role that he can fill on our defense and I think that he has the potential to do it well. Look for Cunningham to play in a Willie McGinest type role. While I think this may be a bit of a reach of a pick, maybe the Patriots couldn't find a deal they liked for their pick.