The New England Patriots invested heavily in their defensive edge this spring when they drafted two players at the position: Youngstown State's Derek Rivers was selected in the third round, Arkansas' Deatrich Wise Jr. in the fourth. It did not take the duo long to make an impact, as both showed their talent early on during the Patriots' spring and training camp practices.
However, both suffered injuries during training camp. While Wise Jr. was dealing with a concussion but ultimately returned, Rivers tore his ACL during a joint practice session with the Houston Texans and was placed on season-ending injured reserve because of it. Rivers' injury left New England thinner than desired on the defensive edge but it gave Wise Jr. a chance to prove himself.
And prove himself he did – to a point where his rookie campaign now looks similar to the one of another former Patriots defensive edge: Chandler Jones, who New England selected in the first round in 2012 and who appeared in 14 games for the team during his first regular season in the NFL. When on the field, the Syracuse standout registered six sacks, 12 quarterback hits and 45 tackles as well as four defended passes, eight tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.
Wise Jr.'s rookie season stacks up pretty when compared to Jones' as the Providence Journal's Mark Daniels noted yesterday. Entering the regular season finale, the 23-year old played in 15 games and has a stat-line similar to the former first rounder: Wise Jr. sacked opposing quarterbacks five times so far this season, while adding 19 quarterback hits, 25 tackles as well as one pass deflection and five tackles for loss.
While Jones' numbers are a bit more impressive in some categories, it has to be noted that the now-Arizona Cardinal saw more playing time during his first year in New England despite playing one fewer game: While Wise Jr. played only 515 of a possible 1,002 defensive snaps so far this season (51.4%), Jones was on the field for 732 of 1,095 (66.8%) during his rookie campaign.
Despite comparatively limited playing time, Wise Jr.'s numbers look similar to Jones' – a rather impressive feature even though the rookie still has some natural growing pains. Overall, though, this is further proof that he has answered the call when New England needed him to.