With opening day still more than two months away and the mandatory portion of the initial wave of offseason workouts over, we have entered the more quiet parts of the NFL offseason. However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop.
During workouts and studying sessions, players still have a chance to lay the foundation for their spots on the team. Over the course of the next few months, we will take a look at the men fighting for them on the 2017 New England Patriots. 53 of currently 90 players will be asked to help the team defend its Super Bowl title.
Today, we will continue the series with one of last year’s in-season additions.
Name: Kyle Van Noy
Jersey number: 53
Opening day age: 26
Size: 6’3, 245 lbs.
2016 review: While he ended his third season in the NFL on the Super Bowl winning New England Patriots, Kyle Van Noy started it with the Detroit Lions. In Detroit, the former second round pick (selection #40, 2014) saw plenty of action as a rotational strongside linebacker. Overall, he appeared in each of the team's first seven games and played 60.6% of defensive snaps (274 of 452).
As a downhill run defender and in coverage of tight ends and running backs, the Brigham Young product registered a total of 23 tackles, one pass defense and one quarterback hit. And while Van Noy was serviceable, he failed to live up to the natural hype his draft position and atheltic skill set create. Therefore, the Lions opted to move on from him via trade – and the Patriots were willing to help.
On October 25, the team traded its 2017 sixth round pick (#215) for Van Noy and the Lions' seventh rounder (#239) – a lopsided trade via the new draft trade value chart. And while New England kept Van Noy on the sidelines for almost the entire first month of his tenure, he turned into a productive member of the team's linebacker rotation once on the field.
With the Patriots, Van Noy played a total of 10 games; seven during the regular season and three during the playoffs. Overall, he was on the field for a total of 352 defensive snaps (of 605; 58.2%) being utilized in a multitude of roles from edge rusher to an interior blitzer - one of the best on the NFL - to an off-the-line defender with a main focus on defending the pass.
As such, Van Noy registered 27 tackles during the regular season to go along with a sack, a quarterback hit and 11 hurries. While his pass rushing and occasional run defense were solid, he was inconsistent in coverage: Van Noy allowed 16 completions on 23 passes thrown his way for 147 yards and one touchdown. He did, however, also register an interception.
During the playoffs, Van Noy improved in coverage and allowed only two more completions on five attempts for a total of nine yards. He also had a half-sack, two quarterback hits and four hurries while recording seven tackles. All in all, Van Noy had a very good first year in New England; one that ended with a world championship.
2017 preview: Entering 2017, Kyle Van Noy is one of the most intriguing players on the Patriots roster. After all, despite only joining the team in late October, he was able to quickly establish himself as a valuable and productive member of the linebacker rotation. And with an entire offseason in New England, the 26-year old should improve even further.
Van Noy will likely still play a similar role to the one he held last season: A versatile defender used both on the line of scrimmage and in space, as a rusher and in pass coverage. As such, he is projected to again play at least half of the defensive snaps as the team's top pass defending option at the position – next to starter and team captain Dont'a Hightower.
And if the 2016 season is any indication, the role will suit him well and maybe even better than it did last year.