Michigan football

This might explain the Patriots-Michigan draft connection the past two years

This might explain the Patriots-Michigan draft connection the past two years

Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown has seen nine members of his defense get drafted into the NFL in the past two years, including two to the Patriots - Josh Uche about two weeks ago and Chase Winovich in 2019.

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Brown, a native of Spencer, Mass., whose coaching career includes stops at UMass (as head coach), Boston College and UConn, talked to Phil Perry on the latest edition of the Next Pats Podcast not only about how those two players fit with the Patriots but also about the influence Bill Belichick's defense has on his own coaching. 

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When he was drafted, Uche had talked about how he had studied the Patriots defense. That's because Brown has taken plenty from it. 

"That's the first place we go, Phil, in the offseason to study," Brown told Perry. "Because Coach Belichick makes such great utilization of guys and gives them the opportunity to play in different roles in different places. That's the first place we go in the offseason to evaluate, especially on third down."

Speaking of emulating the Patriots, Brown said there's a linebacker New England lost in free agency whose game is reminiscent of Uche's. 

"He reminds me a little of [Kyle] Van Noy [who left after four successful seasons with the Pats to sign with the Miami Dolphins]. I kind of see Josh in that similar type of scenario."

And are his two recent Patriots draftees similar?

"They're carbon copies of each other in terms of playing hard and doing it the right way," Brown said of Uche and Winovich.

Perry also talked to Uche himself in this episode of the Next Pats Podcast, which you can watch on YouTube below:

 

Next Pats Podcast: What are Patriots getting in LB Josh Uche from Michigan?

Next Pats Podcast: What are Patriots getting in LB Josh Uche from Michigan?

To say new Patriots linebacker Josh Uche is a quick study doesn't quite cover it.

The newly drafted linebacker from Michigan, selected in the second round, 60th overall, joined our Phil Perry via video conference on the latest edition of the Next Pats Podcast and revealed how quickly he picked up the basics of the Patriots defense and the nearly instant rapport he developed with his new position coach, former Pats linebacker Jerod Mayo.

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"The first WebEx meeting I had with the Patriots was with Coach Mayo and he taught me the defense in, I'd want to say, two minutes," Uche told Perry. "And he taught it to me so well that I was able to recite it to him after when he started asked questions, 'OK, what do you do when this happens, this, this and this?" That's just a testament how good a coach he is just in a short amount of time he could teach me the basics of the defense. I definitely feel like Coach Mayo is the best in the business."

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Perry also talked with Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown about the versatile Uche and how he'll fit with the Patriots. 

"They're getting a gym rat. A guy who just loves ball," Brown said. "He's around the building all the time, around the coaches all the time. Guys who get drafted as high as Josh have an elite quality and his ability to rush certainly jumps off the screen when you watch his tape. It's no accident because he really works hard at his craft."

Uche, 6-foot-1, 245 pounds, appeared to quickly grasp New England's "Do Your Job" philosophy when he told reporters the night he was drafted that he's perfect for the Pats because he's "a hard-ass worker." 

It's his versatility that added to his appeal to the Patriots. Still, Uche leaves little doubt about his favorite thing to do on the football field: 

"If I had to pick one, definitely it'd be pass rushing. I love pass rushing. I've been doing it since I was a kid. And it's just something I'm constantly trying to perfect."

For the complete discussion with Uche and Brown, listen to the Next Pats Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network or watch on YouTube below:

 

Why ESPN expert ranks Patriots' Josh Uche among best scheme fits from 2020 draft

Why ESPN expert ranks Patriots' Josh Uche among best scheme fits from 2020 draft

The New England Patriots found plenty of success last season with the selection of Michigan edge rusher Chase Winovich in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and they are hoping for similar results with their latest draft pick from the Wolverines defense.

The Patriots traded up in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft to select Michigan linebacker Josh Uche, and the pick has received plenty of positive reviews.

One of them comes from ESPN's Matt Bowen, who recently put Uche on his list of "draft picks who landed with the perfect teams." Here's what Bowen wrote about Uche's fit in head coach Bill Belichick's defensive scheme:

In New England, Uche fits as a developing edge rusher with the athletic traits and quick-twitch ability to be used like Kyle Van Noy in Bill Belichick's defense. That's where the Patriots can scheme one-on-one pass rushes for Uche off the edge or wrap him inside on twist stunts. If the defensive linemen can occupy blockers, the door is open for Uche to scrape to the quarterback.

With Uche's ability to play off the ball, he can also drop into coverage and close with speed on underneath throws. And we know Belichick likes versatile defenders. I can't think of a better defensive scheme for Uche, who had 8.5 sacks at Michigan last season.

Winovich tallied 5.5 sacks as a rookie, and the Patriots might need a similar number from Uche in 2020 to help replace the veteran defensive players who left New England as free agents in March.

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The Patriots lost three important linebackers in free agency -- Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and Jamie Collins. Collins (seven) and Van Noy (6.5) were the team's sack leaders last season, and after not signing any notable free agent linebackers to replace them, the team's younger players, including Uche and 2020 third-round pick Anfernee Jennings, will need to step up.

There are reasons to be confident in Uche's ability to contribute right away, and one is his progression at Michigan. He enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2018, tallying seven sacks and eight tackles for loss as a junior. He improved last season with 7.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss as a senior. He also more than doubled his total tackles number from 13 in 2018 to 33 in 2019.

Uche tackles well, he effectively rushes the quarterback and his athleticism is quite impressive. There's a lot to like about his skill set, and the ideal scenario for the Patriots is Uche and Winovich forming a fearsome pass rush for many years to come.