The New England Patriots’ linebacker corps suffered some major turnover during the 2020 offseason, with Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins leaving in free agency, and Dont’a Hightower later opting out of the season over Coronavirus concerns. The team did also add some youth to the group, however, with Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings both hearing their names called on Day Two of the draft.
One of them, Uche, has now been identified as the Patriots’ breakout candidate for the 2021 season by advanced analytics website Pro Football Focus. PFF’s Sam Monson had to say the following about the second-round pick:
New England Patriots: Josh Uche
Josh Uche is an incredibly inexperienced player in terms of playing time at both the college and NFL levels, but on the snaps he does have under his belt, he has been consistently impressive. Uche played just 179 snaps in his rookie year in New England yet generated 14 total pressures on 99 pass rushes. He put together a 75.1 PFF pass-rushing grade, and the Patriots are not overburdened with elite pass rushers.
The opportunity should be there for Uche to have a much bigger role in 2021, and all the evidence we have from him at any level says he will make good of that opportunity and generate some real pressure on quarterbacks.
Injuries limited Uche to just nine games during his rookie season, but he did make an impact as a situational edge rusher alongside Chase Winovich and John Simon. The Patriots did not just use him on the edge, though, but also tried to take advantage of his athleticism by employing him in the versatile “move” role that Hightower, Van Noy and Collins also popularized during their time with the Patriots: he played both on and off the line.
Heading into 2021, it is not hard to see Uche become an integral part of New England’s new-look front seven and see an increased role.