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Patriots rookie comparisons: Josh Uche, Linebacker

Related: Patriots rookie comparisons: OL Justin Herron

New England Patriots Training Camp Photo by Steven Senne-Pool/Getty Images

In an effort to put an end to the long-standing question of “Who does he remind me of?” Keagan Stiefel has compiled a list of player comparisons for the New England Patriots’ 2020 draft class. Each will get a pro comparison and a comparison to a current or former Patriot. Now, these rookies are not necessarily going to become those that they are compared to, but they share similarities in terms of playing style.

Michigan never really figured out how to use Josh Uche. That statement may come as a surprise considering he was the Patriots second selection at No. 60 overall. While with the Wolverines, Uche was never really able to settle into a specific role. He was mostly used in pass rushing situations and in certain sub packages. He has been deployed at linebacker with the capability to move outside in pass rushing situations, much like Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy before him.

However the Patriots use him, it is believed that he will see significant time on the field due to the loss of their top three linebackers during the offseason. Today, you will find out who he compares to at the next level, including one of those three players.

The Player

  • Josh Uche
  • Position: Linebacker
  • Height: 6’2”
  • Weight: 250 lbs

Allow me to go more into Uche’s college snap counts because it is absolutely ridiculous how little he was used. Uche played 470 of Michigan’s 846 defensive snaps in 2019. That is 55.6 percent of snaps, despite being the team leader in sacks, tackles for loss, and forced fumbles.

On the field, Uche showed great potential as a pass rusher. He’s got a few tricks in his bag but his two best traits are his speed around the edge and bend. He’s a high motor guy who can beat you with moves or effort.

Considering the Patriots are expected to use him off ball, the cons in his game would have to be experience in the run game. Putting it as simply as possible, playing off ball means he has extra responsibilities making reads and playing to specific run fits, opposed to just setting the edge on the outside. As is the case with most players, those things will come with experience.

Pro Comparison

  • Demario Davis
  • Position: Linebacker
  • Height: 6’2”
  • Weight: 248 lbs

Though this may seem like a lofty comparison, Davis is a great blueprint for how the Patriots are looking to use Uche. He plays all over the second level of the New Orleans Saints defense, and he does everything well. He can play the run, drop into coverage, and rush the passer.

Uche didn’t exactly do everything at Michigan but that is what will be asked of him at the next level, and he’s got the tools to do so.

This comparison comes mostly from the way these players are used and their physical abilities, but there’s one glaring similarity in playing style. Uche and Davis get downhill better than 90 percent of the linebackers in the NFL:

In terms of capabilities I think they both play the run very well. They both have good pacing and flow well in the run game. They are also very strong at the point of attack. Here are a couple examples of those things.

Uche was rarely, if ever asked to play in coverage so there isn’t much precedent, but his similarities with Davis in terms of athletic ability show he certainly has the capability to grow into a serviceable cover man.

Uche was a stud pass rusher so I would give him the edge in that department but Davis is much better at play recognition, which is to be expected out of an eight-year veteran with an All-Pro nomination under his belt.

Patriot Predecessor

  • Kyle Van Noy
  • Position: Linebacker
  • Height: 6’3”
  • Weight: 250 lbs

Did someone say something about players who weren’t used correctly before coming to New England?

Not only does Uche match up with Van Noy in terms of size and ability, he will be asked to replace the recently departed linebacker early on in his Patriot career. They even gave the guy Van Noy’s old number.

The “Van Noy role” in the Patriots defense is very different from what Uche did at Michigan, but Uche showed the skills to fulfill that sort of roll at the next level.

Uche’s best skill is rushing the passer, and he will get plenty of opportunities to do so taking over for Van Noy, who did plenty of that in New England. Both men have plenty of moves in their bag and can get to the quarterback in all sorts of ways:

We also know that you have to play both the run and the pass in New England, and that is something Uche shouldn’t have a problem with. Despite these both technically being sacks, the recognition and change of direction is there and that is a key element in the run game.

I also spoke earlier about how Uche is great at playing downhill — need I remind you of a certain play that showed Van Noy is as well?

Ultimately, I feel comfortable saying that the Patriots should be just fine with the turnover at the weak side linebacker position. That’s not to say there won’t be growing pains, as there always are, but Josh Uche is physically capable of taking over that role. Only time will tell whether or not he can live up the the high precedent that was set by Kyle Van Noy.