Jerod Mayo has been one of the best defensive players on the New England Patriots since he joined the team in 2008. He has been a defensive team captain for the majority of his Patriots’ tenure and is highly regarded both for his character and football intelligence.
With all of that said, losing him may not be as catastrophic for the Patriots as one might think. As a matter of fact, his injury could open up intriguing opportunities for the Patriots to showcase some of their younger reserve players.
While it is never good to see a player like Mayo go down with an injury, he is not a player without flaws in his game. Particularly, Mayo has been average at best defending the pass, which is a common theme amongst current Patriots’ linebackers.
Now that Mayo is gone, the Patriots will almost certainly move current special teams’ contributor Jamie Collins up a spot on the team’s depth chart. He will be especially crucial defending on passing downs. The Patriots have the unique opportunity to see what he can do in these situations.
They will have the chance to see if he can be the coverage linebacker the team has lacked on their defense for years now. He would also be able to provide a bit of pass-rush help, adding another dimension to the defense.
Why am I so optimistic regarding Collins? Well, it is simple. At the University of Southern Mississippi, he was a very dynamic playmaker, showing versatility by playing multiple defensive spots. In fact, his first year there, he was a safety before making the transition to linebacker in his sophomore season.
In his college career, Collins had 301 tackles to go along with 21 sacks, five forced fumbles and three interceptions, two of which went for scores. The only question that has existed regarding Collins has been the level of competition he has faced. He played for a conference that did not feature the best teams in the country in the C-USA.
Besides the numbers, he has many great tangible qualities, as well. He has a nose for the football and the speed to match his instincts, clocking in at 4.64 in the 40-yard dash at last year’s NFL Scouting Combine. He also has great size at 6-foot-3, 250 pounds, giving him a distinct height advantage against running backs, and even some tight ends in pass defense.
While losing Mayo was not exactly what the Patriots were hoping would happen, it could turn out to benefit the Patriots in the end. After all, when Drew Bledsoe got hurt, nobody thought that Tom Brady would be better or even in the same league as him at the time.
Just to be clear, I am not saying Collins is Brady in linebacker form, but he could be a diamond in the rough for New England if given the opportunity to play primarily in pass coverage.