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Patriots Roster Prediction #31: OLB/DE Jermaine Cunningham

Player Name: DE/OLB Jermaine Cunningham

Experience: Rookie

Past Role: Cunningham was the LDE for the Florida Gators, who ran the 4-3 defense. He was asked to drop back into coverage a few times and was extremely versatile. He was overshadowed by fellow draftee Carlos Dunlap, but Cunningham's coach Urban Meyer advocated for the selection of Cunningham over Dunlap. Cunningham was known for his high motor and high effort and started 38 of his 45 college games.

Predicted Role: Cunningham has to learn a whole new position, switching from DE to OLB. With Burgess contemplating retirement and Shawn Crable being released, the need for Cunningham's development has grown. He should split time with Rob Ninkovich at the LOLB position and should emerge as the starter as the season develops. He'll fill a Willie McGinest type of role on the defense, with his ability to put his hand on the field and pitch in on the 4-3 defensive sets. Cunningham will emerge as a solid player, but won't be a huge game changer as a rookie.

Predicted Season Numbers: 14 Games Started, 16 Games Played, 45 Tackles, 6 Sacks, 1 Forced Fumble

Predicted Depth Chart: #1 LOLB

Summary: Cunningham needs to learn his position as soon as possible, due to how thin the Patriots defense is at outside linebacker. Cunningham's high effort will assist in his learning of the defensive system and he should be a solid player for the whole season. Cunningham should replace the hole that Burgess left open- but there remains a need for depth.