New England Patriots team Hall of Fame edge defender Willie McGinest could be considered an authority when evaluating defenders. The NFL Network asked McGinest to rank his top three 3-4 linebackers and he placed the Broncos’ Von Miller and the 49ers NaVorro Bowman in the top tier.
“My third guy is Jamie Collins,” McGinest continued. “Really underrated guy. He’s big, 6’5, almost 260-plus pounds, but he can run with any tight end, any running back in the league. They do a lot of different things with him.”
Ignoring the fact that Collins was listed as 6’3 1/2 and 250 lbs at the combine, and ignoring that the Patriots run a 4-2 base defense instead of a 3-4, McGinest nails the evaluation of Collins.
Collins is a total freak on the field who can run with almost any tight end or running back. His time in college as a defensive back has granted him fantastic awareness when he drops into coverage and his versatility dropping back is a perfect complement to fellow linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who thrives moving forward.
“Matt Patricia, the defensive coordinator, told me [Collins is] one of the most versatile players he’s ever coached in his career,” McGinest added. “He can get after the quarterback, you can bring him on those dog blitzes, you can play him in space because he covers so well. And against the run, he’ll come up and thug those offensive linemen.”
Collins is still ascending as a player and he will be due a nice contract at the end of the season. The Patriots hope to retain his services for the foreseeable future and, finances permitting, Collins and Hightower will form possibly the most dynamic linebacker duo of the Bill Belichick era- and that’s saying a lot.