FOXBORO, Mass. — Jamie Collins looks like a different player three years after the New England Patriots shipped him off to NFL purgatory in a 2016 midseason trade with the Cleveland Browns.

Collins re-signed with the Patriots this offseason, and he resumed his starting role in the Patriots’ defense with some additional experience under his belt.

Collins’ teammates will tell you this is the same old Jamie. Collins has always been this athletic, this instinctive, this productive. His numbers will tell you otherwise, however.

Through three games, Collins has 19 tackles, five tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, two interceptions and a touchdown. Collins has never finished a season with more than 13 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, two interceptions or one touchdown. He’s on pace to eclipse all of those marks.

In Sundays’ 30-14 win over the New York Jets, Collins registered seven tackles, two sacks, a tackle for loss and a pass breakup. He’s playing like the best defensive player on the roster.

“Jamie’s a good football player,” Bill Belichick said Sunday. “We have a lot of good players on defense, but yeah, Jamie’s been a very productive player for us. He’s very smart, very instinctive, sees things extremely well. Can take the practice and preparation reps in the film room to the field and do the right thing and do it very quickly and decisively out there. Yeah, I’m glad we have him. He’s done a great job for us.”

Collins is chalking up his performance to the players around him. Based on a three-game sample size, this is the best defense Collins has ever played on. They haven’t allowed a touchdown all season, and they let up just 105 yards to the Jets on Sunday. Maybe he’s on to something.

“We’ve got 10 other great guys out there, man,” Collins said Sunday. “All of them guys are around me. They’re pretty good their self. So they just make my job a little easier.”

Patriots special-teams ace Matthew Slater, who was already a captain in Collins’ first stint on the Patriots, has seen the linebacker change off of the field. Perhaps that’s carrying over to his on-field production.

“He’s a man now,” Slater said. “He’s got a family. It’s not just Jamie anymore. He represents a lot of people: his wife, his little guy. And I think when you have family, it changes your perspective in life a lot of times. Those of us who’ve had family know that. I think it’s been a really good change for him.

“Jamie and I have always had a great relationship, but it’s really cool to see a guy come in as a kid and now be a man. I think that’s the thing that I enjoy most. He’s always been a great football player. So, that hasn’t changed. But it’s great to see him serve in that role of husband and father.”

It would be difficult for Collins to keep up this type of tear throughout the season. But he’s off to a hot start and playing like he’s recharged after a disappointing tenure with the Browns.

Thumbnail photo via Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports Images