Jamie Collins has seen a steady increase in playing time since rejoining the New England Patriots earlier this month.
In the first game of his third Patriots tour, he played 5% of defensive snaps — just three total — in a Week 5 win over the Houston Texans. The next week, he was up to 19%. The next, 25%. He’s also played 21 snaps on special teams over those three contests.
The veteran linebacker’s snap count will plateau at some point. But based on comments Friday by head coach Bill Belichick, expect his role to continue to expand in the coming weeks.
Belichick praised Collins in his morning video conference, saying the 32-year-old has quickly reacclimated to the Patriots’ defense and culture.
“He works hard,” Belichick said. “He knows what to do. He’s great to be around. He’s helped us defensively on all downs, and he’s helped us in the kicking game. So he’s really done everything we’ve asked him to do, and he’s doing it well.
“I’m glad we have him, and I think he’ll continue to probably build those roles a little bit here going forward. And I’m sure he’ll try to make the most of all the opportunities that he gets.”
The Patriots drafted Collins in the second round in 2013, then traded him to Cleveland midway through the 2016 season. He returned for a one-year stint in 2019, then signed with Matt Patricia’s Detroit Lions. Less than a year after the Lions fired Patricia, they booted Collins, as well, cutting him in late September and setting the stage for his latest New England reunion.
Teammates celebrated Collins’ return, and his personality and unselfishness have made him a hit in the locker room.
“Jamie’s a real one,” edge rusher Matt Judon, who wasn’t around for Collins’ first two Foxboro tenures, told reporters Thursday. “Jamie is as thorough as it gets. He don’t care about his stats or himself. He’s like, ‘Shoot, whatever they need me to do, I’ll do it.’ … He’s an ultimate competitor. He’ll play special teams.
“A guy like that that’s been in the league for so long that just goes to all the special teams meetings and sits in all the meetings like, ‘Well, if they need me to do it, I’ll do it’ — you really don’t come across guys like that, especially with the type of money that he’s made and the type of plays that he’s made in this league. You don’t come across guys like that often.”
Collins’ on-field production has been modest thus far, but he bagged a sack against the Texans and had a quarterback hit against the Jets. He’s mostly played as an off-the-ball linebacker but can line up on the edge, as well.
The Patriots’ linebacking corps has been hit hard by injuries this season, with Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Ja’Whaun Bentley and Josh Uche all missing games and Chase Winovich landing on injured reserve.
“I think Jamie’s transitioned very smoothly,” Belichick said. “Most of us know him, but there are new relationships to be made. That’s part of joining any new organization or team. But Jamie’s transitioned well. There are some changes in the defense from when he was here in ’19, but he’s acclimated to those. So I think it’s going well.”
Collins and the rest of the Patriots’ defense will face a tough challenge this Sunday as they visit Justin Herbert and the explosive Los Angeles Chargers.