Josh Uche was a second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and the New England Patriots have high hopes for the versatile linebacker to fill the void left by do-it-all linebacker Kyle Van Noy who left for the Miami Dolphins and long-time Super Bowl Champion Jamie Collins who bolted for the Detroit Lions in free agency.
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The Patriots have long enjoyed using exotic looks on defense, and that requires players on the second level to excel at different aspects of the game. Bernd Buchmasser of Pats Pulpit sees Uche as one of those kinds of linebackers. Buchmasser projects Uche as rookie capable of filling the voids left by the two departed veterans.
The Wolverines opted to use Uche both as an edge defender and an off-the-ball linebacker during his final season, and such a role could also be in the cards for him in New England. He could therefore see prominent snaps in the Patriots’ hybrid front right away as a move option in the mold of free agency departures Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins. As such, he might play on the line in the Patriots’ 5-1 looks as well as their 4-2 and 4-3 alignments and also move back if they run a more traditional 3-4 or 3-3.
Quite honestly, Uche’s speed on the field might give him a higher ceiling as an impact defender. He possesses the kind of explosiveness that is present in elite pass rushers. At the moment, the Patriots’ defense doesn’t have a specialist in that area, though Uche’s old college teammate and now Patriots teammate Chase Winovich showed some signs of developing into that kind of player.
Because Uche is viewed as a little undersized for a consistent pass rusher at 6’1″ some believe he slipped in the draft. The Patriots have hit on so many of these kinds of draft picks in the past, and that’s especially the case on the defensive end. If Uche can simply be on the field for 60 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, that would have to be considered a huge win of the Patriots and the rookie.
The team has a lot of depth at the position, especially with other rookies like Anfernee Jennings out of Alabama also looking to find his niche with the unit. Also, mainstays like Dont’a Hightower will automatically garner a spot, and there are some younger veterans who may have a leg up as it pertains to NFL experience and comfort level with the Patriots’ scheme.
In any case, there is a reason so many people are high on Uche, and his progression is one of many stories to follow heading into the Patriots’ 2020 season.