It’s no secret that the Patriots had a big offseason. While the high-profile additions on offense such as Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith have garnered most of the attention, New England made some moves to bolster their front seven that could be just as important.
The Patriots added outside linebackers Matthew Judon and Kyle Van Noy, while also drafting Ronnie Perkins in the third-round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Put all of that together with their selections of Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings in 2020, and the Patriots suddenly have a lot of bodies to sort through on the edge.
Van Noy had 6.0 sacks for the Dolphins last season, which would’ve ranked first on the Patriots. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering Van Noy led the team in sacks in 2019 and New England finished 27th in the league in sacks last year.
Judon also had 6.0 sacks last year, but that was his lowest total since his rookie season. He had 24.5 sacks over the previous three seasons with at least 7.0 sacks in each. With so much talent added on the edge, where does that leave Chase Winovich?
Winovich currently sits behind Van Noy at OLB on ESPN’s unofficial Patriots depth chart. With Van Noy out of the picture last season, Winovich seemed poised to blossom in a larger role. He posted 5.5 sacks as a rookie while playing under 29% of the snaps. His snap count more than doubled in 2020 and he finished with the same sack total of 5.5 despite the fact that he was occupying a much larger role.
It wasn’t all bad though. Winovich did rank 10th in the NFL in total pressures, ahead of both Judon and Van Noy (According to Pro Football Reference pass rushing data). However, what’s perhaps most peculiar is the fact that Bill Belichick didn’t trust him to play more. He was by far the Patriots’ most effective and most talented edge rusher, yet he played under ~58.5% of the snaps. In the season prior, Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy both played over 80%. After seeing such limited action despite proving to be somewhat effective, his coach then brought in three potential replacements. None of this seems to bode well for Winovich’s standing on the team.
Greg Bedard of Boston Sports Journal was asked about Winovich on Twitter after New England drafted Ronnie Perkins and he seems to think Winovich is the odd man out:
Winovich was notably absent from the Patriots first practice open to the media on Thursday. It’s worth noting that the Patriots have little incentive to trade or cut Winovich barring an offer that brought back significant value. His cap number is still very low and at the very least he’ll be a great depth piece, but the issue appears to be that they don’t trust him to be anything more.
The fans love Winovich, but the coaching staff doesn’t appear to. If they did, they wouldn’t have shelled out $68 million for two edge rushers this offseason and they would’ve spent that money elsewhere. Whether he stays in New England for the upcoming season or not, it doesn’t appear his future as a Patriot is as bright as it was hoped to be.
Photo: (Winslow Townson – AP Photo)
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