Two years ago if you had told me the patriots were going to have to cut 2 good linebackers I would’ve laughed. During the 2017 season the Patriots linebackers consisted of an injured Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy (before he was turned into an animal) , Shea McClellan who was a first round flop and Elandon Roberts a guy who no one knew about.
Fast forward 2 years and were now looking at a completely different group including now healthy defensive captain Dont’a Hightower, a dominant Kyle Van Noy who next year will be one of the best linebackers, Ex patriot Jamie Collins who is an athletic monster, Michigan rookie Chase Winnovich who works the Patriot way, Ja’Whaun Bentley who last year shone before sadly tearing his ACL and others. The only question is, who gets cut?
Is Hightowers time up as a Patriot?
All Patriots fans love Hightower thanks to his two Superbowl winning moments in 49 and 51. Hightowers biggest advantage is that you can rely on him he doesn’t put up huge sack numbers like Von Miller or make he hits like Jadeveon Clowney, he’s very consistent which I would much prefer but he is also consistently injured. Even though he played 15out of 16 regular season games last year he also has only played 1 full seasonback in 2013. Hightower is a great leader on and off the field and a good linebacker when healthy but he’s only getting older and the injuries are piling up.
The new guys and the young ones
In the last 2 years the Patriots have added 3 new linebackers that have been drawing attention. This includes; Jamie Collins, who they recently acquired from free agency. Jamie was traded by traded by Bill Belichick to the Cleveland Brownsin 2016for a 3rdround pick despite having a tremendous season. Collins was later cut this offseason after having a disappointing stint with the Ohio based team only mustering 7 sacks and 204 combined tackles, which are not stats you would be expecting from a linebacker that you’re paying 50 million over 4 years to. But after recently being picked up by the Patriots he has a chance to re-invent himself. The second guy is Michigan rookie Chase Winnovich. Chase had a successful career in Ann Arbour but wasn’t the star of the 2ndranked overall NCAA defence. The Patriots picked up Chase in the 3rdroundand the day after he got the call he flew out to Boston to get to work. Winnovich played defensive end in college but due to him only weighing 116kgmade the move to outside linebacker.Chase has something to prove and seems ready to make a name for himself in Foxboro. In 2018 the patriots picked up Ja’Whaun Bentley 143rdoverall. Ja’Whaun was quickly in the headlines during training camp after being praised by Bill and other colleagues being called “smart” and “athletic”. Bentley started in the first game of the season against the Texans and didn’t necessarily blow anyone away but was consistent enough to stay on the field. For me he is the future of New England’s linebacking core and was a steal in last years draft
The final cut
We haven’t arrived at mini camp yet but my early predictions for the depth chart looks like this
Left outside linebacker- Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins
Middle linebacker- Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley
Right outside linebacker- Chase Winnovich, John Simon
Hightower is expensive but is just too crucial to lose this year with a lot of young guys in the team. The biggest loss would be Elandon Roberts someone who has been key the last two years but in the mix with this talent pool he just won’t make the cut in my eyes. One player to watch is Trent Harris, a linebacker who was drafted out of Miami last year and spent last year on the practise squad. He has turned a few heads during practise but will be fighting for his roster life in this squad.