FOXBORO, Mass. — Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Day 6 of New England Patriots training camp is the team’s infatuation with two rookie defenders.
Deatrich Wise, a late fourth-round pick out of Arkansas, served as a defensive starter Wednesday in the Patriots’ defensive sub package over more experienced players like Kony Ealy and Geneo Grissom and higher draft choice Derek Rivers. Equally notable was the Patriots’ use of undrafted free agent linebacker Harvey Langi, who also spent most of practice in a hybrid edge role with the defensive starters.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is throwing a lot on Wise and Langi’s plates, and they appear to be reacting well to the additional responsibility.
Langi has lined up as both a linebacker and pass rusher. He served both roles — plus running back — during his college career at BYU.
“I think we’re trying to figure it out,” Belichick said Wednesday morning. “He’s trying to figure it out. Does he have versatility? Is he better off in one spot? He’s certainly learning that the more you do, the more there is to learn, the more communication there is, the more adjustments there are. So, we’ll see how it goes.”
Wise also has shown versatility. He has played both defensive end and defensive tackle so far during training camp.
“Yeah, well that’s what he did at Arkansas,” Belichick said. “So, I mean, I’m not saying it’s the same as Arkansas, but he did that there. I’d say it’s probably a little broader stroke for Harvey, but regardless, they’re multi-position players potentially. Again, we’ll just have to see how much they can do and how well they can do it.”
What stands out most about Wise is his length. He’s 6-foot-5, 274 pounds with 35 5/8-inch arms. It has served him well so far in 1-on-1 pass rushing drills.
“It’s a big advantage for him, if he can play with good pad level and use his length, not have it used against him, which I’d say he’s been able to do as a football player through his career in college and so forth,” Belichick said. “Even in a few days here, we’ve seen examples of that, but we’ll see more of that going forward.”
Neither Wise nor Langi seems overwhelmed by what’s being thrown at them.
“With the resources that I have and just my mindset, I really believe that I (can) handle anything that is thrown at me, only because my mindset is that I can keep trying and trying and trying and trying,” Langi said Wednesday. “Just being able to walk out here … reinforces that and tells me, ‘Hey, you can keep doing this and keep coming out here and molding your craft.’ That’s what we do when we come out here is mold our craft, so if anything else gets thrown at us, we’ll be able to handle it and not say, ‘I can’t do that.’ ”
Wise wouldn’t even say it was unexpected to already be lining up with veterans on the practice field.
“To me, I feel like I can compete with whoever and anyone with the help of my coaches and teammates,” Wise said. “I’ve always had the mindset of whatever is in front of me, I’ll give it my best.”
It’s been a quick ascension for both players aided by Rob Ninkovich’s retirement.
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