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 rookie defenders.
Name: Chase Winovich
Position: Defensive edge/outside linebacker
Jersey number: 50
Opening day age: 24
Size: 6’3, 250 lbs.
2018 review: After a successful 2017 season that saw him earn All-Big Ten recognition, Chase Winovich decided to return to Michigan for his redshirt senior season. The decision was a good one for him, as he was able to produce another solid campaign and establish himself as an intriguing defensive edge prospect heading towards the draft — one that again was named to the All-Big Ten team for his outstanding play.
All in all, Winovich appeared in all thirteen games for the Wolverines in 2018 and was among the team’s leaders both on and off the field. While future first-round draft picks Devin Bush and Rashan Gary earned most of the headlines, Winovich was as solid and steady a defender as they come: not only was he durable, he also finished the season with a combined 53 quarterback disruptions (according to Pro Football Focus’ draft guide).
One of the most productive pass rushers in all of college football, Winovich registered 5.0 sacks, 14 hits and an additional 34 hurries during his final season in Ann Arbor. On top of it all, he also established himself as a reliable defender against the run and an active presence in the kicking game. No matter how Michigan’s coaching staff opted to use the veteran defender, he delivered and showed off his already refined technique.
In general, Winovich showed some positive traits during the 2018 season. While he was never the most explosive athlete or physically imposing guy on the field, his relentless motor and high football IQ allowed him to consistently have success against some of the best competition in the country. As a result, Winovich was regarded as a potential high draft pick — maybe even as high as the second round.
2019 preview: While he did not get drafted in round two, Winovich was not on the board much longer than that: with the 77th overall selection, the Patriots brought him in to help replace the recently departed Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn in the rotation along the defensive edge. And even though he looked like a major work in progress early on, the 24-year-old quickly showed his tremendous upside during the preseason.
Playing 89 of a possible 157 defensive snaps (56.7%) during the Patriots’ first three exhibition contests, Winovich proved himself a disruptive player both against the run and against the pass: primarily lining up as an outside linebacker in New England’s 3-4 alignment, he registered 2.5 sacks, 2 quarterback hits, and 4 hurries. All of his statistics came against second and third string offenses, yes, but his play was still encouraging.
The Patriots’ coaching staff apparently felt the same way and had Winovich play with the starting defense during the third preseason game against the Carolina Panthers. He saw only limited action, but the message was clear: Winovich appears to be well on his way to enter the defensive edge rotation soon. He should therefore be expected to see regular action both on defense and on special teams during his rookie campaign.
While the Patriots will not rely on the third-round pick to become an immediate contributor this year, his play has put him on the radar. He has built a good foundation and the faster he grows in terms of play recognition and reaction time, the earlier he will become a regular member on one of the deepest defensive units in all of football.