Patriots fans finally have an important answer about their linebacking corps.
Media members have been quick to lambaste head coach Bill Belichick for the New England Patriots falling short of expectations this season. While we would argue that this team was always going to disappoint given how little resources were devoted to making upgrades, the 68-year-old no doubt deserves to be questioned for his puzzling rotation, specifically with young members of the defense.
Given the recent struggles of the unit, Patriots fans have been clamoring for rookie linebackers Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings to take on a bigger role in recent games after garnering hardly any playing time over the first several weeks of the season.
Their requests unfortunately went unfulfilled in Week 10 as Uche saw the field for just four plays and Jennings logged a 16% snap share. Well, in light of their controversial roles, inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo finally offered up some insight as to why the Patriots have slow-played their development as rookies to such a great extreme.
Mayo started off by acknowledging that Uche had more of a third-down role for the Patriots against the Jets on Monday night, whereas Jennings was deployed as an early down specialist. For fans wondering why the coaching staff is refusing to unleash the rookie tandem, Mayo’s next response will probably answer your question.
“I know you’ve heard Coach (Bill) Belichick always talk about we’re a game-plan defense. So, as soon as you get caught up, we’re moving on to the next thing. So then the following week, we’ll use some of the principles from two weeks ago today even though it has a small tweak.
“I think that’s really the challenging part for guys who come in here. Most of these colleges, they run the same four or five plays over and over and over again and try to get good at those plays. Not the case here in New England. I think just the multitude and us changing every week, that’s the difficult part of picking up our playbook.”
That definitely explains a lot, so why did Mayo and the Patriots wait until almost three months into the season to shed some light on this situation? We’ll probably never know, but we’re just relieved we finally have some insight into their mystifying playing time.
“We’ll have to see what these guys are able to handle,” Mayo continued. “One thing we don’t want to do is overload these guys and now they’re out there playing like robots. These guys are good football players and we want them to go out there and play free and not have to think about a lot of different things. But those guys approach the game the right way. They come to practice and work hard each and every day. They have some great leaders around them that they can shadow and learn from whether it’s study habits or on the field.”
It sounds like Uche and Jennings will continue to be pigeon-holed to specific roles until they have a better understanding of the playbook. The Patriots’ scheme, as we know, is arguably the most complex in the entire NFL, so it’s probably taken them longer than expected to adapt to the week-to-week changes after having no preseason and a delayed start to training camp.