It was a play like many others that take place during training camp, but Deatrich Wise Jr. still gave it all he had. Sprinting half the length of the field, the second-year man tried to prevent running back Sony Michel from reaching the end zone. The rookie still did just that, but not without having to outrun the defender chasing after him despite originally starting from the other side of the formation.
Just one play, but one that is exemplary for Wise Jr.’s second camp.
The 2017 fourth-round draft choice is one of New England’s defensive standouts through the first five practice sessions. His energetic approach is one of the reasons why: when he is not chasing down running backs, or finishing plays way down the field, Wise Jr. is cheering on his teammates and staying late after practice to work on improving his technique through a series of individual drills.
“My dad always told me to be the first one on the field and the last one off the field,” Wise Jr. told reporters after one of New England’s training camp sessions last week, when he was asked about his high-motor approach to practice (via the Boston Globe’s Owen Pence). “I try to do that. It’s not intentional. I just like to work on my moves after practice and try to get better [at] the stuff I mess up on.”
Judging by the eye test, getting better is exactly what the 24-year old is doing – which is an especially encouraging development after his rookie campaign: entering the Patriots’ roster as a projected depth option at best, Wise Jr. became a regular along New England’s injury-depleted defensive front in 2017. The results were not always perfect, but he still finished the season as one of the team’s most disruptive players.
According to Wise Jr., this did not happen by accident: “Being disruptive, that’s what our coaches preach,” the edge defender said. “If it’s sacks, [pass breakups], closing the pocket, containing him, putting your hand in his face, anything to disrupt the quarterback’s communication, anything to get him off his rhythm, that’s being disruptive.” Wise Jr. was disruptive a combined 38 times as a rookie, trailing only Trey Flowers in that category.
Now in his second training camp, he is trying to build on the success he enjoyed during his first season as a pro. So far, this process seems to be a successful one: seeing regular reps with the top defensive lineup, and going one-on-one against the Patriots’ projected starting offensive linemen, Wise Jr. is mostly holding his own. While there are still some downs to go along with his ups, the Arkansas product is flashing his talents.
The productivity that stems from those talents is another reason why he is one of New England’s training camp standouts so far. Wise Jr. delivered one of the biggest hits of camp when he de-cleated running back Jeremy Hill, got his hands on pass attempts, and in general showcased his athletic skills and technique on a rather consistent basis. But he also knows that this is all part of the process – and that there is still room for growth.
“I’m still trying to be a student of the game,” Wise Jr. said. “It’s only my second year and I’m still learning, still have room to improve.” This motivation to grow better paired with the aforementioned energy and his standout practice performance is what makes Wise Jr. one of the most intriguing Patriots defenders entering the 2018 season – and a candidate to make the famous second-year jump.