New England Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins has always been a versatile player. In his return to the Patriots’ defense, however, Collins has notched up that maneuverability.
Collins is essentially playing two entirely different positions this season as an off-the-ball inside linebacker and on-the-ball edge defender. Collins played on the edge some in his first stint with the Patriots, but it’s much more of an even split this season.
Collins has been on the line for 54 snaps in 2019 and off the line for 66 snaps, per Pro Football Focus.
Here was Collins’ on/off splits in his first four seasons with the Patriots:
The primary reason for Collins’ increased versatility this season is that the Patriots are now utilizing outside linebackers more in their current defense. The Patriots played more of a basic four-man front from 2013 to 2016. Now, the Patriots’ primary pass rushers are more athletic players like Collins, Kyle Van Noy, Dont’a Hightower, Chase Winovich, John Simon and Shilique Calhoun who stand up on the line of scrimmage.
In Collins’ first tenure with the Patriots, he had said he’d prefer to rush the passer than drop into coverage. He’s still dropping into coverage more than rushing, but his responsibilities are more balanced in his return.
On: sack, tackle for loss, two run stuffs
Off: sack, tackle for loss, pass breakup, tackle for no gain in coverage
With 7:22 left in the first quarter, Collins was standing on the line of scrimmage when he ran a stunt for an unblocked sack.
Collins pancaked Jets tight end Ryan Griffin on a run stuff with 9:18 left in the second quarter. A play like that is where his combination of athleticism and instincts really flashes.
Collins did a very nice job setting the edge at outside linebacker on a tackle for loss with 8:41 left in the second quarter.
Collins registered another sack on a stunt from a standing position on the line of scrimmage late in the fourth quarter. He blew past the Jets’ center, overpursued but had the athleticism to loop back around for the sack.
Needless to say, bringing back Collins has been a positive decision for the Patriots three games into the season.
Some other notes from our film review:
— Much will be made of Sony Michel’s nine-carry, 11-yard performance. Michel’s blockers didn’t give him much room to run. Michel also could have earned more yards. These things are not mutually exclusive. Not every take needs to be so black and white.
— The Patriots are doing a good job of using their defensive depth to keep players fresh. Only Van Noy played 100 percent of defensive snaps. The Patriots used a rotation with their Nos. 2 and 3 cornerbacks with Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty and JC Jackson all seeing 32 to 35 snaps apiece.
— The Patriots’ wide receiver depth will really be tested against the Buffalo Bills if Julian Edelman (chest/ribs) can’t play Sunday. The Patriots would go into the game with Josh Gordon as their No. 1, Phillip Dorsett as the No. 2, undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers as the No. 3 and Gunner Olszewski, another UDFA, as the No. 4. With the way Gordon, Dorsett and Meyers played Sunday, that doesn’t seem like it would be a major problem.
Dorsett currently is on pace for a crazy stat line of 69 catches for 997 yards with 16 touchdowns.
He caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady on a slant route. Play-action is what made the score possible, but look how fast Dorsett comes off of the line of scrimmage to get to the second level before any Jets defenders realize what’s happening.
— Good early returns from a pass-blocking perspective on Marshall Newhouse’s first start at left tackle with the Patriots. The Patriots’ offensive line as a whole needs some work run blocking.
For more grades, advanced statistics and more at Pro Football Focus, go to ProFootballFocus.com.