Secret Superstars 2014: Patriots
As we continue our Secret Superstar series, we arrive at the New England Patriots who have been working for years to replace the linebacking set of Willie McGinest, Tedy Bruschi and Roman Phifer. In the 2013 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots traded their first round pick to Minnesota. They received four picks in return, including the 52nd overall pick in the second round, which became Jamie Collins.
Collins was a truly versatile athlete, playing QB in high school, then safety and defensive end/linebacker in college. A tall player with long, lanky arms, Collins produced on a terrible Southern Miss team, especially as a pass rusher.
Collins was coming into an already crowded Patriots LB group with three high round draft picks (Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower, and Brandon Spikes) so he would have to wait for a starting opportunity. He would begin 2013 playing mostly on special teams.
First Half of the Season
Collins made his NFL debut in the first game in Buffalo, but only played two snaps. In the second quarter he was on the field for consecutive plays, being on the opposite side of the field for a run and then jamming one tight end at the line before blitzing against another who managed to navigate him away from the QB. He played another four uneventful snaps in the next game vs. the Jets (three consecutive plays in the second quarter and one in the fourth) before he showed up on the stat sheet in the following game vs. the Buccaneers. Playing 18 snaps in the blowout win, he recorded his first career stop against guard Carl Nicks. Collins met a pulling Nicks in the backfield, absorbed his block, shed him, and then made the stop on Doug Martin.
He was tested during his 12 snaps the following week on Sunday Night Football against the Falcons. He conceded both passes thrown into his coverage for two first downs and 23 yards, while being partially responsible for another first down catch with underneath coverage. He would only play 16 snaps over the next two weeks before another notable performance on 15 snaps in a rematch against the Jets. The Patriots lost the game in OT, but Collins made two stops and generated three hurries on six blitzes, the most impressive involving him putting center Nick Mangold on the ground (11:12 in the first quarter).
Second Half of Season
Jamie began the second half with a ‘red’ overall graded performance against the Dolphins, earning negative grades in run defense and coverage. He would only play four snaps in the following two games before the memorable Sunday Night comeback at home vs. the Broncos. Although he only played 23 of 90 snaps, he started and shined. He made an impact beginning on the games’ first series, limiting a tight end to a three yard catch on 2nd-and-10 and then assisting Hightower in keeping Wes Welker short of the conversion on a third down catch.
He would make six tackles on the night, including a possible TD saving one 31 yards downfield on a screen pass he wasn’t responsible for. He also conceded two catches for first downs, but made arguably one of the most important plays of the game: on the Broncos’ last offensive snap of the game in OT, 3rd-and-8, he was in coverage on Welker, bumped him and then instantly knocked the ball out of his hands when the pass arrived.
Collins continued to produce in the second half of the regular season, only receiving one negative overall grade in the Miami rematch and even then just barely (-0.2 overall). His best overall grade to date would come in the week 16 game in Baltimore, allowing only three of six passes to be completed in his coverage while defending two (although one, in garbage time, also counts as a dropped interception). He would end the season vs. Buffalo by showing some of the pass rushing skills he’d flashed earlier in the season and in college with two QB knockdowns on just four blitzes.
Collins would end up playing all but three of 142 snaps in the Patriots two playoff games, and made an unforgettable impression in the home divisional win over the Colts. Collins wrecked havoc on Indianapolis’ offense in every way possible. Some stout run defense (6:18 left in the third quarter is a good example of his fantastic efforts), punishing pass rush (a sack, two hits and a hurry on just nine blitzes), and solid coverage.
His work in the last area was especially notable, allowing only two catches on five targets while displaying close coverage on two third down incompletions. One was a third-and-goal where he was split out wide in press coverage and he earned his first career interception on the other target.
The following week in Denver, the Patriots season came to an end, but Collins once again contributed. He did miss a tackle (his third of the year) and was responsible for two first downs and 51 receiving yards to tight end Julius Thomas, but managed to defend a pass to Montee Ball, record six tackles including three stops in run defense, and beat an offensive lineman for a pressure. It will be interesting to see what a full season of starting playing time with due for Collins’ game, but he certainly won’t be a secret anymore.
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