The New England Patriots, who are currently in their middle of their 2019 preseason, have 89 players on their active roster at the moment. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on August 31 and ultimately make the team. Over the course of the summer, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots defend their Super Bowl title.
Today, the series continues with one New England’s defensive linemen.
Name: Deatrich Wise Jr.
Position: Defensive edge
Jersey number: 91
Opening day age: 25
Size: 6’5, 275 lbs.
2018 review: The only member of the Patriots’ 2017 draft class to actually make the team’s active roster that year, Deatrich Wise Jr. entered 2018 with momentum on his side after a solid rookie campaign. And while he did not break out and suddenly become one of the NFL’s best young edge defenders, the Arkansas product did produce another good season as a core member of New England’s rotation along the edge.
As such, Wise Jr. appeared in all sixteen of the Patriots’ regular season games. Despite competing for playing time with fellow 2017 draft pick Derek Rivers and free agency acquisitions Adrian Clayborn and John Simon, the second-year man established himself as the number two at the position behind only Trey Flowers: he was on the field for 432 of New England’s 1,043 defensive snaps (41.4%) between weeks one and seventeen.
Durability was one of Wise Jr’s best traits during the 2018 regular season, but far from his only positive one: he also again proved himself a disruptive if at times a bit inconsistent pass rusher, took a big step forward when it came to setting the edge in the running game, and showed the ability to line up all over the line depending on the situation. The team regularly trusted him to do his job, and he generally repaid the team’s trust.
Unfortunately, however, Wise Jr. was unable to do his job early on during the playoffs. An ankle injury forced him to sit out the Patriots’ games against the Los Angeles Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs, before his return for Super Bowl 53 against the Los Angeles Rams. The title game, which New England won 13-3, was a continuation of Wise Jr’s season up to that point: he was the number two defensive edge, and played a mostly solid game.
All in all, the former fourth-round draft pick ended his second year in the NFL not just with his first championship ring but also with some solid numbers: he registered 4.5 sacks, 10 quarterback hits and 5 hurries, and also had 22 tackles in the running game. Most importantly, however, he allowed the Patriots to regularly rotate their edge defenders and keep them fresh throughout the year.
2019 preview: Issues with his ankle and foot forced Wise Jr. to sit out the Patriots’ organized team activities and mandatory minicamp this spring. He subsequently also opened training camp on the physically unable to perform list (PUP), but returned a short time later after passing his physical. And while he is back on the field now and appears to have very good chances of making the team again, it will be interesting to see his role evolve.
After all, the Patriots have started experimenting with more 3-4 principles in their front seven. As a result, Wise Jr. might see considerable snaps this year playing a more traditional defensive end role: depending on the front New England uses, the team might employ him anywhere between 2-technique and 5-technique. Luckily, he has already shown an ability to play those roles effectively over the past two years.
In his first preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, for example, he saw extensive action as a 5-technique end in New England’s ‘Under’ and ‘Okie’ fronts. Could this be a sign of things to come? It certainly seems possible, which is why Wise Jr’s role as an edge defender aligning split out wide on a regular basis might be a thing of the past: if the Patriots indeed use primarily 3-4 fronts again, he is expected to become a classic end in the mold of Ty Warren and Richard Seymour.