Collins was the Patriots’ first pick in April’s draft, albeit in the second round, and the expectations are even loftier than his high draft status. And, so far — granted it’s a small sample size — he hasn’t disappointed.
Collins mixed in with the first-team defense during the first two days of training camp, including some extended time in sub packages. He’s made some nice plays at times, but he’s also struggled adjusting on the fly. Some of that might just be rookie jitters, but Collins was very upfront Friday, admitting he’s had trouble adjusting to the pace of the game.
“It’s just the pace. It’s a faster pace,” Collins said. “It’s way faster than college, so it’s something you’ve got to get in, get the routine of and just get it going.”
The game will eventually slow down for Collins, who is something of an athletic anomaly, but having some grizzled veterans to help will certainly hasten the pace of that transition. Collins already realizes how much he can benefit from those guys, and he’s taking advantage of every opportunity.
“Yeah, I’ve got a couple veterans I look up to and guys that I look at and I follow,” Collins said. “Like [Jerod] Mayo, [Dont'a] Hightower, [Brandon] Spikes, those kind of guys.”
Even beyond the linebackers, which is where Collins has played so far in camp, Collins has found himself a quality mentor in second-year defensive end Chandler Jones. Collins has spent a lot of time with Jones off the field, developing a friendship and using him as a resource in his development.
“Yeah, that’s a guy I like talking to,” Collins said of Jones. “He teaches me a few things, and I listen. Like I said, he’s another vet that I look up to, even though it’s his second year.
As much weight as guys like Mayo, Hightower and Jones may carry, Collins isn’t discriminating when it comes to advice and guidance. If someone’s offering it up, he’s all ears.
“Whoever it is, I’m listening to and I’m going to play my role,” Collins added.
On Sunday, the Patriots will finally don full pads — something Collins has been waiting for since draft day.
“Oh yeah, that’s the fun part — hitting people,” Collins said with a big smile and the strap to his shoulder pads sticking out from underneath his jersey. “That’s what we do, hitting people.”
Collins will undoubtedly make some impressive plays once the hitting commences, but he’ll still need time to adjust to the pro game. Fortunately for him, he has all the resources he’ll need at the ready.
Photo via Twitter/@SteveB7SFG