The Patriots lost some quality edge rushers this offseason. Both Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy signed large contracts to play for former Patriots defensive coordinators. The Patriots will use a mix of defensive ends and outside linebackers to contain the outside and pass rush.
Veteran Patriots Edge Rushers
Derek Rivers – 6’6″ 250 lbs
Rivers has had a tough time trying to make an impact as a Patriots edge rusher. He missed the entire 2017 season with a torn ACL. Rivers came back in 2018 to play six games in limited capacity and was able to get his first and only career sack. He went into 2019 figuring to have a chance at some serious playing time before having season ending surgery on his right knee after the preseason game against the Titans.
Derek Rivers has always looked like a talented pass rusher and is constantly praised for his work ethic. With so many young Patriots edge rushers, Rivers could have another opportunity to carve out a role for himself. His long wingspan and quickness makes him a threat as a defensive end. Rivers has had horrible luck and hopes to turn it around in what could be his last shot in New England.
Deatrich Wise Jr. – 6’5″ 275 lbs
Wise is another player who is a pure defensive end. Over the last three seasons Wise has been a quality rotating pass rusher. He has made 11 starts in 46 games played since being drafted by New England in 2017. He has 11.5 career sacks and will contribute to a group of young Patriots edge rushers eager to get to the quarterback. Deatrich Wise Jr. is a great example of a typical Patriot. He does his job each day and earns every rep he gets. Wise and Rivers were drafted together and have pushed each other to be the best players they can be.
Chase Winovich – 6’3″ 256 lbs
Winovich is a third-round pick from the 2019 draft class that is already developing as a fan favorite. With Collins and Van Noy departing, Winovich will have to step into a much larger role. Last season Winovich played in all 16 games without getting a start. He was able to rack up 5.5 sacks as a rookie in limited playing time. Chase could be a steal for New England if he can take another step in 2020. I wrote a full article about Chase Winovich last preseason. Here are some of my favorite excerpts:
Winovich is measured at 6’3″, 256 lbs and profiles as a 4-3 Defensive End/3-4 Edge Rusher. He ran a 4.59 40-yard dash, which was actually faster than fellow rookie DB Joejuan Williams. This is not the most relevant combine result based on his position, but his straight line speed is worth noting.
One role the Patriots have yet to really fill is the one Rob Ninkovich left behind. Ninkovich never took a play off and became a opportunistic weak-side edge rusher. Chase can develop into a similar player and has the potential to be better than Ninkovich when having to drop back in coverage and keep up with an opposing third-down back.Read More:
John Simon – 6’2″ 260 lbs
Simon is the longest tenured NFL veteran in the group entering his age 30 season. While Simon is not a household name, he did makes 12 regular season starts for New England in 2019. In his second year with the team, Simon had a sizable role with 44 tackles and four sacks. It will be interesting to see whether Simon is able to expand his role with two notable edge rushers leaving, or if the young guys come in and take his role. Belichick does tend to lean on veterans to do their job over a flashy rookie.
Shilique Calhoun – 6’4″ 260 lbs
Calhoun is a 27-year-old defensive end that has yet to make an impact in this league. If Calhoun makes the team in 2020, it will be primarily as a special teams starter. Last season Calhoun made nine tackles and forced a fumble. He only has 38 career tackles and one start in 41 games. His job security went way down when the Patriots drafted two edge rushers and signed an undrafted free agent.
Brandon Copeland – 6’3″ 263 lbs
Copeland is one of the few free agent additions to the 2020 Patriots team. Brandon Copeland is an outside linebacker that signed a one-year deal to add depth prior to the draft. Copeland played two seasons with the Lions and then two more with the Jets. He is primarily a pass rusher that struggles in coverage. Copeland only started three games for the Jets in 12 games played. He will be a part of a long line of Patriots edge rushers.
Tashawn Bower – 6’5″ 250 lbs
Bower was on the Patriots practice squad last season. He only has seven games played with seven tackles and a sack. Belichick’s draft selections will make it extremely tough for Bower to crack the 53-man roster.
NFL Draft Selections
Josh Uche – 6’1″ 245 lbs
Uche (pronounced OOH-chay) is a second-round pick out of Michigan. Josh Uche led the team in sacks the last two seasons and was named Michigan’s 2019 Defensive Player of the Year. This was surprisingly Uche’s first time as a starter in college, despite having a fairly big role his junior year. He played with Winovich in 2018, where they terrorized opposing quarterbacks in the Big Ten. Now, they will have the opportunity to repeat their success at the NFL level.
Uche is an explosive player that I would have loved to see run the 40-yard dash. Unfortunately, a hamstring injury at the Senior Bowl prevented Uche from running at the combine, and his Pro Day was cancelled due to the pandemic. He projects that he would have run a 4.55 or better because he ran a 4.60 on his first day of training. Regardless, his speed is evident and he will have the chance to become an impact rookie much like his fellow Michigan man, Chase Winovich. Here are Uche’s highlights, starting with a clip of Uche and Winovich rushing Patriots undrafted free agent Brian Lewerkie.
Anfernee Jennings – 6’2″ 256 lbs
Jennings played at Alabama for four seasons after being redshirted in 2015. He received some of the best coaching in the world for five years and was named captain in 2019. The Patriots took Jennings in the third round. Jennings is an outside linebacker who drew comparisons to Kyle Van Noy in the pre-draft process. He is a quality pass rusher who amassed 8 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in the SEC.
With 83 total tackles in 2019, I could see Jennings filling a few roles for New England. His comparisons to Van Noy are fair so he could be thrown into that vacant role. His best fit would be to rotate with Josh Uche as a rookie Patriots edge rusher. Here is a highlight that includes Jennings taking down some notable quarterbacks — one of which was Stidham. He only needed one hand to bring Stidham down.
Undrafted Free Agent
Nick Coe – 6’5″ 280 lbs
Nick Coe was an undrafted free agent out of Auburn. He was a defensive end in college, but could move to the interior. Coe is a raw prospect but showed flashes of what he can do. Many expected him to go in the later rounds, and he was immediately considered a priority free agent at the conclusion of the draft.