Even though the 2020 season was a disappointment for the New England Patriots that partially led to some major investments being made during the offseason, not all was as bad as the team’s 7-9 record suggests. Take the performance of second-round draft pick Josh Uche, for example.
While he dealt with some injury woes and was limited to only nine games, the youngster regularly flashed his talents as a versatile member of New England’s linebacker corps. Heading into his second season in the system, Uche now appears to be a realistic candidate to make the famous Year 2 jump.
One of his newest teammates appears to be confident that he can make it, and more.
“Uche is going to be great, man,” fellow linebacker Matthew Judon told reporters after Thursday’s training camp practice.
“He’s a sponge. He’s soaking up so much knowledge and he can play any position, anywhere in the front seven. We don’t really want him at nose, but if he has to do it he will do it. He will do it with a smile. Getting here, I love gelling with Uche and just shooting with Uche. So far, he’s been really cool.”
The Patriots added some serious competition to their linebacker room in free agency and the draft, but Uche still projects to play an active role in New England’s front seven this season. His performance during offseason workouts and on the first two days of training camp already points in that direction.
While the on-the-field aspect obviously stands out, the 22-year-old is apparently also on the right track behind the scenes. Judon said so himself, and team captain Dont’a Hightower also mentioned this the other day.
“Josh is eager to learn. Judon’s eager to learn,” Hightower said about the two recent arrivals. “Whenever you have guys like that who have that extra energy and motivation to push themselves it kind of feeds off on other guys. I’m sure it’s all welcome from all different parts of the organization. It’s been good — great, actually — working with those guys.”
Judon has established himself in the NFL, but Uche has yet to get to that point. Still, he has shown some promising growth over the course of the offseason (both figuratively and literally).
He also has a year of experience under his belt now, even though that one year was as unconventional as any in recent history due the Coronavirus pandemic. Judon, however, thinks that Uche and the other second-year players on New England’s roster will be better off because of the challenges they encountered in 2020.
“I think last year for the rookies, it was a very tough year. It was a very tough year,” he said. “For them going through that it’s going to make them so much better in the future.”
Whether or not that will actually be the case remains to be seen, but Uche’s performance so far is a strong argument in favor of Judon’s hypothesis. Now all that is left is to keep the momentum alive going into the full-pads portion of camp.
It looks like Matthew Judon believes that the young defender will be able to do just that.