Matthew Judon Sends Warning To Patriots Foes Amid Josh Uche Breakout

'Our best pass rusher is emerging'


Dec 13, 2022

GLENDALE, Ariz. — After the Patriots beat the Indianapolis Colts early last month, Matthew Judon made a bold statement.

The veteran outside linebacker was leading the NFL in sacks at the time, on pace for a historic, All-Pro-caliber season. But he declared he was not New England’s best pure pass rusher. That title, he said, belonged to Josh Uche.

Judon’s statement raised eyebrows at the time, and it might still be a bit hyperbolic. Judon, after all, still sits tied atop the NFL sack leaderboard with 14 1/2. He needs another 4 1/2 over the final four games to break Andre Tippett’s single-season franchise record. He’s probably the Patriots’ best all-around defensive player.

But Uche? He’s been nothing short of fantastic of late.

The 2020 second-round draft pick registered another three sacks during Monday night’s 27-13 win over the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium, giving him 10 over his last six games alone. No other NFL defender has more during that span.

“I told y’all I wasn’t the best pass rusher,” Judon said after Monday’s game, “and our best pass rusher is emerging. People are going to have to block him. If they don’t and they chip my side and they worry about me, Uche will do that every week. I just love the way he’s playing with confidence and poise. This is the most he’s played since he’s been in the NFL, so it’s taking a toll on him, but he’s going out there and he’s having a lot of success.”

Before his recent surge, Uche had generated frequent offseason hype but minimal in-season production. The Michigan product managed just four sacks over his first 26 career games, including zero from Week 3 of last season to Week 7 of this season. Head coach Bill Belichick has credited “availability” for Uche’s long-awaited emergence, noting that, although he missed two games earlier this season with a hamstring injury, he’s been healthier and more active than he was in his first two NFL campaigns.

Uche and Judon are the first pair of NFL teammates to notch double-digit sacks this season.

“We all knew it,” Judon said. “We all knew what type of player he was. He was drafted pretty high here, and now he’s just emerging, and folks are going to have to watch out.”

All three of Uche’s sacks against Arizona came in the second half. One came on third down, and another was on fourth down. On one particularly impactful two-play stretch, Uche sacked backup Cardinals quarterback Colt McCoy, then hit him as he threw, causing his pass to flutter through the air. Cornerback Marcus Jones settled under it for an easy interception, and the Patriots scored on the ensuing possession to take a 14-point fourth-quarter lead.

“That boy is a baller,” said linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who scored New England’s go-ahead touchdown off a Kyle Dugger forced fumble. “(No.) 55 is going to show up and play ball every week, so he’s a baller.”

Added Dugger: “He’s going. He’s really being dominant for us. We love it, and we need it.”

The Patriots totaled six sacks against the Cardinals, with Judon contributing 1 1/2 and defensive tackles Damien Ekuale and Lawrence Guy notching a sack and a half-sack, respectively. That group will be challenged this Sunday against a Las Vegas Raiders team that’s allowed the fifth-fewest sacks in the league through 14 weeks.

Thumbnail photo via Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports Images
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