The New England Patriots currently have 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on September 1 and ultimately make the team. Over the course of the offseason, we take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Today, the series continues with one of the team’s starting defenders.
Name: Kyle Van Noy
Jersey number: 53
Opening day age: 27
Size: 6’3, 250 lbs.
2017 review: A mid-season trade acquisition in 2016, Kyle Van Noy was the Patriots’ top linebacker option and defensive signal caller one year later: After team captain Dont’a Hightower was placed on injured reserve following a week seven shoulder injury, Van Noy took over his responsibilities as the main man in the heart of New England’s defensive front seven and delivered an encouraging performance throughout the year.
As a versatile defender that was used at multiple spots across the formation – on the line as an edge defender, off the line as a traditional Mike linebacker – and extensively against both the ground game and the pass, Van Noy appeared in 13 regular season games and all three playoff contests. Missing weeks 14, 15, and 16 because of a calf issue, he was on the field for 67.0% of defensive snaps (710 of 1,060) before playing 87.5% in the postseason (189 of 216).
Playing mostly as the number two linebacker over the first half of the season, the 2014 second-round draft pick rose to the occasion when asked to take over the top spot from Hightower: Van Noy, who received a two-year, $11.75 million contract extension in early September, was a positive presence when on the field – both in terms of productivity and when it comes to providing leadership and swagger to a group he was now asked to lead.
Overall, Van Noy finished the season with 89 tackles which were distributed rather evenly between run and pass. In general, he was productive in both aspects of the game: Van Noy registered six stuffed runs while also creating 6.5 sacks – one of which a strip in the AFC title game –, four quarterback hits, and 10 pressures. As good as he was as a run stopper and pass rusher from the edge and the blitz, Van Noy’s pass coverage was a bit inconsistent.
While he did not give up a passing touchdown and broke up two attempts, he did allow 19 of the 24 throws into his coverage areas to be completed for a combined 197 yards and was also flagged for illegal contact once. Ultimately, however, those numbers should not overshadow what can be considered as a good season for Van Noy.
2018 preview: Even with Hightower returning, Van Noy is again projected to play considerable snaps as the Patriots’ number two linebacker. However, his role will likely look different when compared to last season. For one, Hightower is expected to return as the defense’s on-field signal caller wearing the radio device in his helmet; something Van Noy did during the team captain’s injury-forced absence.
Van Noy’s general on-field usage might also differ a bit, but ultimately will still see him moving around the formation so that the team can take advantage of his athletic skills and natural feel for the game. As a result, he will again be used both on the line of scrimmage and in open space, as a pass rusher and in coverage. Wearing multiple hats, Van Noy is projected to again play around 60% of defensive snaps alongside Hightower.