It’s been a wild season for New England Patriots linebacker Chase Winovich.
The 2019 third-round pick started the year looking like one of the Patriots’ best defenders. Then the bye week came and Winovich’s snaps dropped precipitously from Week 6 to Week 8. Winovich took on a larger role in Week 9 then played nearly every snap — in a new role, no less — in Week 10.
Winovich played his first season and a half with the Patriots as an edge defender at defensive end or outside linebacker. The Patriots moved him off of the line of scrimmage, a role he hasn’t played since high school, in Week 10, and he thrived in New England’s win over the Baltimore Ravens.
Maybe it wasn’t just a game-plan dependent switch.
“Playing off the ball was obviously a lot of fun,” Winovich said. “It allowed me to really see the whole field and use some of the other attributes. I already talked about this after the game. I’d say some of the biggest things are just getting familiar with the different types of reads and — after playing for so long at a certain position, you get a feel for how tackles move and just different looks and it’s almost muscle memory. But whenever you switch positions, you kind of have to start from scratch in a certain sense.
“But honestly, football’s pretty natural to me. A lot of the stuff are things that I’m reading anyways from an outside linebacker positions and sometimes they’re just easier from an inside linebacker position, so I really haven’t had too much difficulty in terms of picking some things up. I think it’s just the finer details is what I’m trying to groom and it’s obviously tougher to do that midseason than it would be if I started maybe in camp or something but you can’t really worry about that and the coaches are really helping obviously to bridge that gap quickly — when we’ve obviously practiced that, sorry. I should elaborate on that.”
So, it sounds like Winovich is continuing to work off of the line of scrimmage in practice.
He’s picked the brains of current and former Patriots players as he moves around the defense and flashes his versatility.
“Yeah, the Patriots culture is definitely something I’ve tried to assimilate into as much as I can,” Winovich said. “Obviously, it’s a balance but in terms of the actual players that have played the position — there’s a lot of positives across the board and a lot of wise people I can lean on from every angle. Whether you’re talking about current players, talking about John Simon, Ja’Whaun Bentley, or you’re talking about coaches like Jerod Mayo who was obviously a great player here or you’re talking about Steve Belichick or DC (DeMarcus Covingon) — the list can kind of go on and on and you can include former players since you brought that up.
“Rob Ninkovich has been a huge help for me just picking his brain on different techniques and stuff. Whether it’s former players, former players who are coaching in the system, whether it’s watching examples of old tapes of different players that have played here in the past, different positions. We actually saw some clips of (Mike) Vrabel playing off the ball a while back. In general man, it’s been a great experience just having so much knowledge and expertise around me and history here in New England, obviously on the football team in specific is huge.”
Winovich and Ninkovich, two No. 50s, struck up a relationship as soon as Winovich was drafted. Ninkovich also played multiple positions in the Patriots’ front seven during his eight seasons in New England.