PITTSBURGH — Days before the New England Patriots’ season opener, Deatrich Wise was voted a team captain for the first time.
He’s followed up that honor with the best two-game stretch of his NFL career.
Long a solid but unspectacular member of the Patriots’ defense, Wise is off to an excellent start in his sixth pro season. Two weeks in, he’s not only Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded Patriots player (89.6), but also the league’s seventh-highest-graded edge defender entering Monday night’s games.
The only ones who ranked higher: Micah Parsons, Myles Garrett, Jerry Hughes, Dennis Gardeck, Maxx Crosby and Josh Allen. Players like Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack and T.J. Watt were close behind.
Wise opened the season with a strip-sack, a quarterback hit and four total pressures in a loss to the Miami Dolphins. In Week 2, he flashed as a run defender, stuffing Najee Harris for no gain on an early Pittsburgh Steelers drive and later stopping him for a gain of 1. His PFF run defense grade is fourth-best for his position behind Uchenna Nwosu, Allen and Crosby.
Head coach Bill Belichick — who raised eyebrows when he re-signed Wise to a hefty four-year, $22 million contract before last season — loves what he’s seen from the 28-year-old thus far.
“Wise has really done a good job for us,” Belichick said Monday in a video conference. “Got off to a great start in the game. Made couple of big stops early. Did a good job with a very mobile quarterback, back there with (Mitch) Trubisky. So I think he’s given us a lot of high-quality snaps, both run and pass, and a higher number of snaps. He works really hard on his conditioning in practice. He does a lot of either extra running or a lot of running during every play, finishing plays, chasing the ball downfield, things like that. So he’s in good condition and is playing well for us.”
That improved conditioning has helped Wise, a situational pass rusher earlier in his career, take on a legitimate three-down role in the Patriots’ front seven. He played 83% of New England’s defensive snaps in Week 1 and a career-high 90% in Sunday’s 17-14 win in Pittsburgh.
In 78 career games before this season, Wise had reached an 80% snap rate just twice. He was below 50% in eight games last season and didn’t top 70% until the postseason.
“Wise is a very consistent player on the edge, just holding down the edge,” outside linebacker Matthew Judon said after Sunday’s win at Acrisure Stadium. “He’s holding down the edge. I believe he made the first tackle of the game. He’s just been consistent. He never gets too high, never gets too low, and he just loves the game. He loves the game of football, and he attacks it every day and he has fun. You see him out there, big lanky dude with big old feet, but he’s always in the right spot. Wise is a very good player and a very good kid.”
Judon recently said Wise is the first Patriots player to arrive at the facility each morning — usually between 5:30 and 6 a.m. — and that his off-the-field work ethic inspired teammates to elect him as one of New England’s six captains. It’s now paying dividends on the field, too.
“Since Deatrich stepped in this building, he’s made an impression, made an impact on everybody he’s touched,” defensive line coach DeMarcus Covington said earlier this month. “… I’m proud for him to become a captain and lead this football team.?