There were 73 defensive snaps to play at MetLife Stadium last Sunday.
Ja’Whaun Bentley was on the field for 68 of them, marking a career high, while leading the New England Patriots in tackles.
Inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo can see why.
“I would say Bent has been doing a great job for us. He’s definitely,” Mayo told reporters during his video conference on Tuesday. “He’s flying around.”
Bentley, who arrived in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL draft, saw his rookie season end on injured reserve with a torn bicep. He returned to start two games the following year and was named a team captain last year while totaling 91 tackles and 1.5 sacks in the absence of reigning Pro Bowl linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
Since then, the 25-year-old Bentley has started both games this September. He’s stayed in for 82.25 percent of the downs over that span to rank behind only Patriots All-Decade safety Devin McCourty. And while recording a team-high 13 combined tackles, the Purdue product has also logged a pair of solos for loss versus Miami Dolphins running back Salvon Ahmed and New York Jets running back Michael Carter.
“He looks like he’s more athletic this year,” Mayo said. “He’s really taken the offseason seriously, and that’s translating to the field. And I would also say he has a better understanding of the defense. He’s been here for quite some time now, really understands the front, really understands the total package — not just what he has to do. That’s allowing him to play faster.”
There is a difference between processing speed and playing speed. And Mayo, whose No. 51 Patriots jersey was previously worn by Bentley before a switch to No. 8, noted the hours it requires for those to work in unison on a defense with many looks.
“It takes time to see the different schemes. The zone schemes, the scheme runs, the gap plays — it takes a lot of time to see those against the multiple fronts that we have,” he added. “I mean, I don’t think that’s like a time you can really put on it. But I will say when I came up, we had two-a-days, so we spent a lot of time out there.”
Through two weeks, so has Bentley.