It took Jamie Collins Sr. more than two months to find a new team after his release from the Cleveland Browns, but find one he ultimately did: in mid-May, the New England Patriots brought their former second-round pick back into the fold on a modest one-year contract — an investment that has paid off six weeks into the NFL’s 2019 regular season: Collins, after all, has been a terrific addition to New England’s already strong defense.
Through his first six games in a Patriots uniform since the 2016 season, Collins has been on the field for 290 of the team’s 374 defensive snaps — his 77.5% playing time share leads all of New England’s linebackers — and has posted some outstanding statistics already: the 29-year-old has registered 4.5 sacks (most on the team) as well as three interceptions (second most on the team) and two forced fumbles (tied for most on the team).
Numbers only tell one part of the story, though, as Collins’ reemergence has also allowed the Patriots to move away from their primarily 4-3-based defensive front to more of a 3-4 alignment. Based on the first six games of the season, this change was a good one that likely would not have worked as smoothly without the versatile linebacker. Collins’ addition therefore also had a structural impact on the way New England plays defense.
Add this perspective to the statistics he has posted, and you can see why Collins has a very strong case to be named the most valuable defender on the team at this point in the year — an opinion shared by those who filled out SB Nation’s latest FanPulse survey earlier this week: 41.7% of the participants answered the question “Who is Patriots’ defensive MVP so far this season?” by picking New England’s offseason signing.
Collins finished the poll ahead of the NFL’s best cornerback: Stephon Gilmore, who was voted All-Pro last year and continues his strong play in 2019, received 38.0% of the votes. Fellow linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower, meanwhile, came in third and fourth with 9.3% as well as 6.5% respectively. Safety Devin McCourty, on the other hand, was picked by just 4.6% of those taking part in the survey.
The AFC’s reigning Defensive Player of the Month finishing behind his four teammates is further proof of the Patriots’ depth, and how all those players have been able to leave their mark on the league’s dominant defense. And through six weeks, an argument can be made that none of them has been quite as dominant as Jamie Collins — a player who is spectacularly reviving his career just a few months after flaming out in Cleveland.
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