By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Two things are clear now that Michael Bennett has been shipped to Dallas. He didn't fit in the Patriots' defensive scheme as they built it over the summer, and he's not a guy who will make self-sacrifices for the betterment of the team.
Bennett's tenure with the Patriots possibly could've worked if the team kept Greg Schiano aboard as defensive coordinator. He would have had a better chance to flourish in a 4-3 scheme. But instead they morphed into more of a 3-4 defense in the wake of Schiano's departure, leaving Bennett as a tweener on the roster. He's not big enough to play a space-eating role like Lawrence Guy or Danny Shelton, and he lacks the ideal speed and mobility to play outside linebacker.
So, his playing time started off low and dwindled from there. And Bennett has never been the kind of guy who will just fall in line and accept whatever the team wants. Once he voiced a "philosophical disagreement" with defensive line coach Bret Bielema, he started punching his ticket out of Foxborough.
It didn't have to be this way. Just because Bennett didn't function perfectly in the system doesn't mean he had no chance of making it work. Contrast him with third-year defensive lineman Deatrich Wise, who has made an impact despite averaging just 15.7 snaps in six games. Eight tackles (one for loss), one sack, one forced fumble, and six QB hits is an impressive and valuable contribution for a player with such a limited workload.
But most importantly, Wise accepts that role. He follows the lead of the coaches and he's been put in position to succeed. Bennett wasn't willing to accept enough of what the coaches needed. So despite the talent he still possesses, it proved to be too difficult of a situation to keep it in the building moving forward.
"Look, in the end, I think Mike's a good player," said head coach Bill Belichick on Friday. "We brought him here; he helped our team. I think he would help us, but we've only get a certain number of – certain things we've got to work with and work around, and that's what we have to do."
Putting philosophical disagreements aside is definitely part of what the team wants out of all its players. Considering Bennett has never been one to bite his tongue, perhaps his departure was inevitable.
Now Bennett is in a more player-friendly environment in Dallas. He'll be a better fit for Rod Marinelli's 4-3 front and get more opportunities to make plays. But he was also in player-friendly environments in Philadelphia and Seattle, too. And the Seahawks and Eagles also decided he was too much of a handful and traded him for relative pennies on the dollar. The Patriots were far from the first team to have to salvage what they could from an enigmatic asset like Bennett.
So Belichick has nipped it in the bud before the Patriots get too far in the season. The defense has dominated without having to play Bennett too much and will continue to do so. And they've subtracted a player who proved too problematic to be worth the headaches.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].