WATCH: Ja’Whaun Bentley recovers fumble for 54-yard TD

Ja’Whaun Bentley is competing with a host of linebackers on the New England Patriots for playing time this season, and the rookie made a very strong impression early in the team’s preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles. When Dont’a Hightower managed to strip quarterback Nick Foles in the second quarter, Bentley picked up the fumble and ran it all the way back for a Patriots score, putting them up 17-0 over the Eagles before halftime.

The way that this game has gone so far has to be somewhat cathartic for the Patriots. After losing the Super Bowl to the Eagles, and even seeing a plane fly by Gilette Stadium with a banner showing the score tonight, the Patriots are exacting some measure of revenge over the team that cost them a championship last season. It is still the preseason, so it isn’t nearly as satisfying as it would be if the game actually counted for anything, but clobbering Foles, who is 3-for-9 through the air so far as the Patriots have racked up three sacks, has to feel satisfying.

Bentley, meanwhile, has added a big play to his resume in a crowded linebacker room. Hightower and Kyle Van Noy are the starters, and they are locked into their jobs, but beyond them, anything could happen at linebacker. The Patriots only start two linebackers, preferring to play three safeties, but players like Bentley, Elandon Roberts, Christian Sam, Marquis Flowers and others are fighting for every snap they can get their hands on. Hightower was the star of the play with the strip. But getting the score can’t hurt Bentley here one bit.

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