Eric Lee could offer sturdier presence on edge than Cassius Marsh

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots have signed defensive end Eric Lee off the Bills' practice squad, which sparks an obvious question: What do they see in Lee that might be able to help them?

Bill Belichick said Wednesday morning that when the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Lee was with the Texans he played outside linebacker in their 3-4 defense and defensive end in their sub defense. That is similar to what he will be asked to do in New England.

Belichick said the team worked out Lee, who played at South Florida, prior to the 2016 draft, but Belichick himself didn't meet with him on his annual scouting trip down South. Belichick added that watching him this preseason against the Patriots (40 snaps in the second preseason game), and also in joint practices, aided part of the team's personnel analysis.

"We'll see how it goes," Belichick said of Lee's possible role with the Patriots.

After watching some of Lee's snaps against the Patriots in the preseason (some clips on Twitter feed), here are a few additional thoughts on why the team views him as a better fit than Cassius Marsh:

More size on the edge. Lee has yet to play in a regular-season NFL game, but from a pure physical makeup perspective he will provide a sturdier presence on the edge than the 245-pound Marsh. There was one play in the preseason game where he took on offensive tackle Conor McDermott, shed the block and then tackled running back D.J. Foster on a run around the right end. That is something Marsh had struggled with coming from more of a one-gap, penetrating scheme in Seattle.

Pass-rush potential. After spending the 2016 season on the Texans' practice squad (multiple scheme like the Patriots'), and then the last two-plus months on the Bills' practice squad (more of a pure 4-3 scheme), Lee is obviously still raw as a player. He shows some potential in the pass rush, as he showed some power and speed at different times while working against young linemen Cole Croston and McDermott in the preseason. He doesn't have the same length (32 3/4) as Trey Flowers (34 1/4) and Deatrich Wise Jr. (35 5/8), but it is still seems suffice to work against longer-armed offensive tackles. His effort in chasing plays down the field and to the sideline was notable, although he isn't a quick-twitch athlete like Marsh who might be more apt to win with pure speed or a quicker first step.

Thin at defensive end. Flowers has played 91 percent of the defensive snaps this season as he seldom comes off the field. Wise is at 52.4 percent, while Marsh had played 40.1 percent. The team is thin at the position, but it helps that linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Trevor Reilly also have some end-of-the-line responsibilities in the scheme. Overall, Lee is a developmental prospect who has more ideal size to play the role that Marsh had been asked to do. He probably won't have a front-line role on special teams.