The Patriots' defense has received a nice lift from Dane Fletcher since he returned from injury in Week 14 after missing six games. A second-year pro who went undrafted out of Montana State, Fletcher has played outside and in the middle this season after playing defensive end in college. He played in every snap in the Week 16 win over Miami, according to ESPN Boston. "The more you can play that position, the more confidence that you're going to gain. I'd say you've noticed just in (Fletcher's) play, it looks like he's played a little more assertively, a little more aggressively," Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio told reporters this week. The way we hear it, Fletcher is a hardworking player who brings a nice blitzing dynamic to the defense — he has six QB hits this season. He is also a key special-teams player. Brandon Spikes, though, is still the starter when he returns from injury, we hear. Spikes is more physical and a better run stopper, but Fletcher will have a role on defense, as he has emerged as a key contributor.
Follow Kevin Fishbain on Twitter