Fletcher shines as Patriots win first pre-season game
By Brandon Niles for the Big Sky Weekly

Dane Fletcher, from Bozeman, is trying to make his case as a viable outside linebacker for the New England Patriots. This past weekend, in the team’s first pre-season game, Fletcher made four solo tackles and an assist in a victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Standing 6’2 and 244 pounds, Fletcher has a great motor and shows occasional playmaking skills. Last season (his first in the NFL), he had two sacks, a forced fumble, and an interception in limited appearances.

After a productive career at Bozeman High School playing both linebacker and tight end, Fletcher chose to stay at home and attend Montana State University. He excelled for the Bobcats, starting at defensive end for three years before signing as an undrafted free agent with the Patriots. In his senior year at MSU, Fletcher was a team captain and recorded seven sacks.

Fletcher defied the odds last season by making the Patriots final roster despite being an undrafted rookie. In spot duty last year, he found a way to make a difference, including a big fourth quarter sack against the Packers toward the end of the year. While he hasn’t yet solidified his spot on the roster this season, his effort surely will not go unnoticed and if he continues to produce as he did this week against Jacksonville, he’ll likely find himself vying for more playing time when the regular season starts.

The Patriots need someone to step up and contribute at OLB. Fletcher has the kind of quickness and determination that could help him become a force as a pass rusher and contribute heavily on passing downs. Time will tell whether or not he can find long-term success in the NFL.

Brandon Niles is a regular sports contributor for the Big Sky Weekly writing from Oregon