FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — If you watched today's practice and no other, you might think Jamie Collins has the potential to be the 2013 Defensive Rookie of the Year.
It's not out of the realm of possibility, but the problem is that usually, that award is reserved for a player who makes a "sexy" impact with sacks or interceptions.
No matter how he is used, his impact will likely be felt from a very early stage. His athletic ability is simply too great to not translate to the NFL game.
“He’s a competitor and he’s going to compete when he’s out on the field,” linebacker coach Pepper Johnson said on Monday. “That’s what I like: His athleticism. If it doesn’t transfer out there to the football field, then we’ll start hiring male cheerleaders or something and he can do a couple flips that way."
The Patriots would probably rather use him in other ways, like forcing fumbles, which he did twice in practice on Thursday -- once in the Oklahoma drill against tight end Brandon Ford and again in the ball security drill against running back James Develin.
Up until this point, we haven't seen Collins do much besides defend the run and drop into coverage. He still hasn't participated in the one-on-one pass-rush drills between the offensive and defensive linemen, but today was our first real look at Collins' ability to get into the backfield. He was seen shooting gaps through the offensive line, and forced quarterback Tim Tebow out of the pocket on one play, which would have been a tackle for at least a four-yard loss.
Collins role has taken shape through the first six practices, but the added talent and athleticism at linebacker is certainly welcome.
“I think Coach Belichick did a great job of getting a linebacker in here,” Johnson said. “It’s just a matter of him understanding the game, which he does. He kind of came ready with a lunch pail. It’s just a matter of us putting the sandwiches and the milk up in the lunch pail. He’s a guy that understands football, so that makes it easier for me to help try to guide him.”
With some potential for turnover at linebacker this offseason -- both Rob Ninkovich and Brandon Spikes are set to become free agents -- there will be a vested interest in the continued development of Collins through training camp and beyond.
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