The New England Patriots traded LB Jamie Collins to the Cleveland Browns on October 31st. The coaching staff benched ED Jabaal Sheard in the middle of the next game against the Seattle Seahawks and made Sheard a healthy scratch the subsequent week against the San Francisco 49ers.
Both Collins and Sheard were considered priority free agents from the Patriots entering the 2016 season, but neither was living up to the lofty standards necessary to earn a bank-breaking contract from head coach Bill Belichick.
Collins has tanked since joining the Browns, showing little effort and appearing to just go through the motions. His decline in level of play was capped off by a weak performance against the Bills where he was rated the worst edge defender in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.
“Collins looked disinterested at times in this game, frequently finding himself losing his contain on outside run plays,” Pro Football Focus writes. “He was also targeted five times in the passing game, surrendering five catches for 71 yards.”
The Patriots are currently slated to receive a 2017 3rd round pick for moving Collins, while former Lions LB Kyle Van Noy and former Bears LB Shea McClellin have been playing very well in recent weeks.
Sheard has responded to his adversity in a different way. While getting benched is clearly less damning than getting shipped to Cleveland, Sheard has been open with his struggles after Belichick said that Sheard hadn’t played well enough to remain on the field.
Since he was a scratch against the 49ers, Sheard has increased his playing time and he has rejoined a four-man rotation on the edge, along with Trey Flowers, Chris Long, and Rob Ninkovich.
“Sheard taking his lumps after his ‘benching’ and responding to it by coming out fighting/working hard was a positive sign that the defense was on the road to improving after the shock of the Collins trade seemed to stun them a bit,” Pulpiteer MyGasIsFarFromIdeal wrote.
Belichick always talks about the importance of the mental aspect of football. During the 2014 shellacking at the hands of the Chiefs, Belichick praised the team’s fight through the end of the fourth quarter. The way a player responds to adversity is important for the coaching staff to witness.
Collins apparently wasn’t interested and was traded. Sheard has answered the call with a few great performances in a row. The Patriots had a difficult choice to make and it seems like they made the right call, yet again.