John Simon was among the starters as the New England Patriots’ 2019 preseason opened last Thursday night.
He’d record a tackle on running back C.J. Anderson for no gain during the initial play from scrimmage, cutting from the weak side to the strong. He’d leap out of the tall grass to record an interception on quarterback David Fales midway through the second quarter. He’d finish having been in for 13 defensive snaps at Ford Field.
Danny Shelton, Adam Butler, Shilique Calhoun, Jamie Collins and Ja’Whaun Bentley joined Simon in the initial front against the Detroit Lions. And those initial glimpses were more of what Simon – on his fourth team and entering his seventh season in the NFL – had shown upon arriving in New England late last September.
Consistent production in a limited sample size.
“He’s a good end-of-the-line player,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said of the 28-year-old Simon earlier this week on WEEI’s Ordway, Merloni and Fauria. “He’s tough, very physical, very smart, very instinctive player. He’s got good experience.”
Simon has appeared in 65 career games through stops with the Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts and now the Patriots. He has started 24 games. The 2013 fourth-round draft pick has been a linebacker and a defensive end. And a quick study.
One who twice worked alongside fellow Buckeye, former Patriot and current Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel. One who once debuted for New England just four days after signing.
“He’s been in some different systems, and he’s been coached by Mike both at Ohio State and with the Texans,” Belichick added before the Patriots flew into Nashville for joint practices with the Titans. “He did a good job for us last year. Came in the early part of the season, but learned the defense, contributed a lot to it.”
The 6-foot-2, 260-pound Simon logged 17 tackles and two sacks off New England’s edge through 11 contests last regular season. He missed time with a shoulder injury and saw 17 percent of the defensive downs by the close of December.
But an additional four tackles – including one for loss – followed from January into February. As did a half-sack versus the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes in the AFC Championship Game and a pass breakup versus the Los Angeles Rams’ Jared Goff in Super Bowl LIII.
There’s reason to think a growing role could also follow for the 2012 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
Simon re-signed with New England on a two-year, $4 million pact as free agency began in March. It’s continuity for a veteran who’d begun 2018 with a Labor Day release from the Colts and a tour of workouts that featured the Patriots.
Simon now appears to be on solid ground in a multiple role that covers ground.
“Obviously way ahead of it this year by being here from Day 1 all the way through the offseason program in the spring,” Belichick told WEEI. “Yeah, John’s on top of it.”