On Oct. 25, Kyle Van Noy became a New England Patriot.
On Nov. 20, with two inactives and a bye week in between, the linebacker made his debut.
And while the role that followed for Van Noy against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday did not etch his future utilization in stone, it went a long way towards shedding light on how the Patriots view his skillset.
The 2014 second-round pick out of Brigham Young, who amassed 26 sacks and 62 tackles for loss during his collegiate career, had served primarily as a strong-side 4-3 linebacker in his two-plus seasons with the Detroit Lions. He registered only one sack and 39 tackles over that span, working mostly off the ball versus running backs and tight ends through his first 30 games and seven starts.
Van Noy would encounter those two offensive position groups again soon after the 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff got underway at Levi’s Stadium. Yet he also would play close to the line and pin his ears back.
The 6-foot-3, 243-pounder lined up off the right edge of New England’s hybrid front on 11 plays, and on the left edge an additional three times. Along the way, No. 53 also spent 14 plays either looming over the inside gaps or standing further back next to the likes of Dont’a Hightower, Shea McClellin and Patrick Chung on the second level.
SNAPS BY ALIGNMENT
Left Edge: Three snaps
Right Edge: 11 snaps
Second Level or Sugaring Inside Gaps: 14 snaps
Excluding one false start, the acquisition, who arrived in New England with a seventh-round pick in exchange for a sixth-rounder, played 28 defensive snaps versus San Francisco.
He hit home for a sack on his fourth.
Van Noy went outside and in on 49ers right tackle Trenton Brown on third-and-8 with 12:55 to go in the second quarter. And shortly after he cut back to the B-gap, he managed to cut down quarterback Colin Kaepernick for a loss of eight yards.
Week 7 of the 2015 season was the last time, and only time, the ex-Lion had recorded a sack.
Van Noy would get more opportunities to do so against the Niners. He rushed the passer on a total of 14 snaps, and while serving as a looper into the A-gap on third-and-9 with 4:29 to go in the third quarter, he collected a hurry.
Third-down situations were linked closely with Van Noy, who was in for 13 of them. But the 26-year-old was far from exclusive to that situation as the game wore on.
SNAPS BY DOWN
First Down: Nine snaps
Second Down: Six snaps
Third Down: 13 snaps
Those downs and distances called for stopping the run on four instances. Van Noy, in turn, responded with a pair of tackles on 49ers tailback Carlos Hyde.
The first saw him close in and knock tight end Vance McDonald into the lane with 9:33 left in the fourth quarter. That congested things, and with the help of defensive end Trey Flowers, only a one-yard gain was the byproduct.
And the second run stop, which occurred with 4:25 remaining, saw Van Noy get pushed wide but not too far out of position, as he shed free from engagement and jumped back into Hyde’s view.
His recovery and wrap-up limited the run to four yards.
Van Noy got a chance to show his movement skills in close proximity as well as in open space versus San Francisco. He held up in pass rush and also in his limited reps in run defense.
He didn’t look out of place pass coverage, either.
SNAPS BY TASK
Pass Rush: 14 snaps
Pass Coverage: 10 snaps
Run Defense: Four snaps
An ability to change direction was apparent at the line of scrimmage and behind it for Van Noy. But it could be argued that one of his better displays of doing so in coverage was negated by a penalty.
It transpired on second-and-9 during San Francisco’s fourth offensive series, when he dropped from the edge and headed between the hashes to spy on the quarterback. Van Noy scanned right to left from there, monitoring the potential for a crossing route as well as the potential for Kaepernick to run.
Kaepernick did. Van Noy followed, and flipped his lateral agility into downhill pursuit.
That effort forced a throwaway. However, a holding call against New England would change that result – at least on paper.
And on paper, Van Noy finished Sunday with three tackles and one sack.
It remains to be seen how that initial sample size and production will carry over. But there’s reason to believe that the versatility – particularly in passing situations – that Van Noy offers the Patriots will continue to be called upon in sub-package looks.
In a multiple defense that continues to shift identity, the value of that role is likely to grow.