Bill Belichick has worked with some pretty dynamic defensive players: Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, and Willie McGinnest to name a few. But none might be as dynamic as Jamie Collins. Collins is the ultimate chess piece; the player that can literally play every defensive position and play it well. In 2014, his first as a starter, he recorded 116 tackles, 4 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions. Already this year, he has 22 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles…IN THREE GAMES. Barring injury, Collins is ready to not only cement his position as the best LB on the Patriots, but the best LB in the league.
At Southern Mississippi, the school that famously gave the world Brett Favre, Collins played defensive back (both corner and safety), linebacker and defensive end. The fact that he excelled at defensive back, standing at 6’3, 250 pounds is a test to show how freakish of an athlete Collins truly is. Also a standout track & field athlete, Collins was a state track qualifier. At the 2009 3A South State Meet, he earned first-place finishes in the shot put (51-6) and discus throw (156-0 or 47.80m), while also placing second in both the high jump (6-4 or 1.93m) and triple jump (43-10.5) events.* While at the 2013 Combine, he ran a 4.59 40 and had a broad jump of 11 feet, 7 inches, which was a combine record; Not just for linebackers or defensive players, but for EVERY player that has ever participated in the NFL Scouting Combine (this was recently beat this year by CB Byron Jones, but Collins’ record still stands for linebacker).
The interesting thing about Collins is where he lines up along the Patriots front. Teaming with fellow stud LB’s Donta’ Hightower and Jerod Mayo, the Patriots can make an argument for the best LB corps in the league. But again, he has lined up at defensive end, defensive tackle and some deep safety this year already. He joined in the effort against Buffalo with 8 sacks of Bills QB Tyrod Taylor. As the season goes on, expect Collins to start taking more of a dominant role and other teams will have to know where #91 is.
Belichick has tried before to add a player similar to Collins’ skill set (Adalius Thomas anyone?) but he struck gold here. Seeing Collins all over the field shows the amount of respect Belichick and Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia have for his ability and they will work to put him in the best position. His ability to cover TE’s (having to guard the best TE in the league in practice doesn’t hurt things) has made him indispensable and now is increasing his pass rush. His ability softens the blow of the loss of CB Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. Creating an intense pass rush helps average CB’s look like Pro-Bowlers. After all, the Giants won two Super Bowls with this philosophy.
Collins, with all his ability and skill, has to prove going forward that he can sustain the level of success he needs to become an All-Pro. With good coaching and strong leadership around him, Collins has the ability to step up and be the best at his position. By giving arguably the best defensive mind in the last 20 years an invaluable addition shows how far ahead the Patriots are of other teams and how they are still the team to beat in the NFL in 2015.