For years now, the Patriots have struggled at defending both tight ends and running backs with their linebackers. Brandon Spikes vows that he will change all that, but the Patriots pride themselves on action, not talk.
With that in mind, the Patriots addressed this issue during the offseason, drafting Southern Mississippi Linebacker Jamie Collins. Now some say that Collins was a reach in the second round at 52nd overall, and perhaps they’re right. However, the Patriots had no choice but to address their coverage issues early in the draft.
Collins has always been a productive player for USM. He was a jack-of-all-trades there, totaling 314 tackles, 21 sacks, seven forced fumbles and three interceptions, two returned for touchdowns. Two of those interceptions came as a safety in his second season with the team.
Back then, Collins exclusively played safety and excelled at the position. After he moved from safety to linebacker in his third year, he was mostly relied upon to rush the passer. However, he dropped back in coverage too, registering an interception in that season as well.
There is one reason and one reason only that many people were pessimistic about Collins, especially after he was drafted in the second round of the draft: the lack of NFL-level competition that he faced while playing for USM.
Playing in a mediocre conference, the Golden Eagles face teams like Western Kentucky, Louisville, and Eastern Carolina among others. Scouts were scared that Collins’ numbers would dip if he faced NFL teams because of that.
However, what many of them did not account for was the fact that he has played well against all levels of college competition. For example, he had five solo tackles in a game against South Carolina in 2010. In a game where his team lost 41-13, he was one of the only bright spots for the Golden Eagles.
Collins is a solid coverage guy with great size at 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, and this move should pay dividends for the Patriots, given their linebacker coverage deficiencies in recent years.