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New England Patriots 2018 roster breakdown: #91 DE Deatrich Wise Jr.

Wise Jr. is a prime candidate for the second-year jump.

NFL: AFC Championship-Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots currently have 89 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 New England’s defensive linemen.

Name: Deatrich Wise Jr.

Position: Defensive edge

Jersey number: 91

Opening day age: 24

Experience: 1

Size: 6’5, 275 lbs.

2017 review: The New England Patriots picked four players during the 2017 NFL draft, but only one of them actually found his way onto the team’s 53-man roster: Deatrich Wise Jr., who heard his name called in the fourth round and turned out to be a very good selection for New England during his rookie year. In fact, the Arkansas product served as the de-facto number two defensive edge behind fellow ex-Razorback Trey Flowers.

In that role, Wise Jr. appeared in all 16 of the Patriots’ regular season contests and played 51.2% of New England’s defensive snaps (543 of 1,060). And even though his playing time decreased later during the year to a point where he played only 23.6% of snaps (51 of 216) in the postseason – mostly due to the additions of Eric Lee and James Harrison –, the 131st overall draft pick remained a productive presence opposite Flowers.

Through the Patriots’ last six games of the season and with his role more specifically that of a pass rushing specialist, Wise Jr. registered 4.0 sacks to bring his season total to 7.0 – second-most on the team behind only Flowers. His impact was not limited to quarterback takedowns, though, as the rookie also was a regular disruptor of opposing passers: Wise Jr. finished the season with an additional 14 hits and 13 hurries.

He still had his rookie hiccups, though: while productive as a pass rusher, Wise Jr. was a bit inconsistent at times and also had issues when it came to setting the edge in the running game (which played a role in the team adding the aforementioned Lee and Harrison late in the year). Overall, however, his first NFL season can still be seen as a success: Wise Jr. acclimated well to life in the pros and laid a solid foundation for the future.

2018 preview: Following his encouraging rookie campaign, Wise Jr. appears poised to make the famed second-year leap in 2018: the 24-year old was one of the Patriots’ training camp standouts due to his high-motor during team drills and competitiveness when going one-on-one against the team’s projected starting offensive linemen. Consequently, he received plenty of opportunities to play together with the top defensive lineup.

Given his performance over the summer, Wise Jr. is expected to continue seeing considerable playing time in year two. While a deeper rotation at the defensive edge positions should lead to a decreased total number of snaps for him, Wise Jr. should be a beneficiary of playing in a group that saw the additions of Derek Rivers (off injured reserve) and Adrian Clayborn (via free agency) over the course of the offseason.

The second-year man will still see a lot of time, but possibly in a more clearly-defined role as a situational pass rusher – a usage that fit him well last year and allowed him to play to his strengths. As such, he will likely be on the field for 30-40% of defensive snaps. And all things considered, it would not be a surprise if Wise Jr. turned out to be the Patriots’ most productive pass rusher this season as opposed to the higher-profile Flowers or Clayborn.