Leading up to the first day of training camp, we’re going to look at the most important Patriots, counting down from 10 to 1.
5. JAMIE COLLINS
Why? The dude is a freak. F-R-E-A-K, FREAK! I’m sure you’ve seen the Instagram post, but in case you haven’t, you are very welcome. There's no better athlete on the Pats roster. Collins played quarterback at one point in his high school years, before converting to defensive back and now becoming one of the best young linebackers/players (yep, I just went there) in the NFL. And you know what I love about Collins? I think he’s just beginning to fully understand what he’s capable of. Mind meeting athleticism meeting experience meeting . . . holy crap, I’m a bad mammerjammer.
Previous Performance: Spent the first eight weeks (seven games) of last season looking like a nervous kid in a new school. No eye contact. Low talker. Then Matt Patricia and Bill Belichick unleashed the hounds against Peyton Manning and Denver, and Collins became Mr. Popular and damn near Mr. Perfect. The sight of Dont'a Hightower and Collins over the guard/center gap caused many a sleepless night for QBs, offensive linemen, offensive coordinators and all their families. I think anyone who watches the league would be hard-pressed to say there was a linebacker who played better. It didn't just come in flashes, either; it was a week-to-week consistency that often eludes younger players.
Questions surrounding the player: Can he sustain it for a full season? Collins didn’t emerge until late in his rookie year, which was to be expected, but that slow start last year was somewhat unexpected, maybe because I placed unrealistic expectations on him based on how that rookie campaign ended. I’d also like to see him be a little more aggressive at the point of attack versus the run. There were a few games (season opener in Miami, first meeting vs. the Jets, against the Ravens in the playoffs) were he didn’t meet power with power. But again, that’s just part of the learning curve.
Overall Outlook: He’s already one of the best in the game. Can he became the best? I don’t see why not. This is gonna be fun.