Steve Belichick on Josh Uche: ‘There’s more we can put on his plate’

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New England Patriots linebacker Josh Uche is settling into his role as a situational pass-rusher. He flashed tremendous potential during training camp and preseason, and has been effective with limited snaps this season.

Uche has three sacks, 10 pressures, five hurries and two quarterback hits on his 149 snaps (31% of defensive snaps). Just like past pass-rushing specialist like Chase Winovich and Deatrich Wise, Uche has seen volatility in his involvement. He’s only on the field in passing situations, so if the opponent focuses on the run, the Patriots can’t use him. He missed Week 3 with an injury, and has seen as few as 14 snaps (Week 5) and as many as 35 (Week 2).

But perhaps a bigger role is on the horizon. Defensive play-caller Steve Belichick hinted that Uche was beginning to build out his knowledge of the defense.

“He’s starting to see the game from a wider perspective, becoming more versatile just because he understands what’s going on in terms of our defensive scheme and what offenses are doing to us. Trying to use Josh in different ways,” Belichick said on Tuesday. “He also has a good skillset physically. Smart kid. Puts in a lot of work. He has more he can handle and show that he can do it out there on the field. There’s more we can put on his plate.”

He has been fairly effective in coverage in his first two years in the NFL, but Uche is struggling as a run defender, according to the digital scouting service Pro Football Focus. His grade in run defense is an underwhelming 26.2 out of 100. That may be a product of a small sample size this year, however.

“He’s put in a lot of work through the offseason, through training camp, through part of the season,” Belichick said. “We’ve got some veteran guys that he’s able to learn from in the linebacker room. I’m sure those guys are able to help him out a lot, and like I said, just starting to click. He did a bunch of stuff in college and he’s settling in here a little bit in terms of specific roles. They had him doing good stuff out there in Michigan, but he’s here now and we’re pushing forward with him. Another guy we’re happy to have. We drafted him for a reason.”

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