The New England Patriots seemed like they needed a little bulk in their front seven while playing against the Seattle Seahawks, who blasted linebackers off the ball with ease on Sunday night. That’s in part, because the linebackers weren’t linebackers at all. They were safeties playing linebacker.
Both Adrian Phillips and Kyle Dugger spent a great deal of time in the box, and while Dugger looked solid, Phillips had more difficulty than he did in the role in Week 1. They both had some issues getting off blocks, and Phillips simply looked too small to hold his ground against the powerful Seahawks rushing attack.
That begged the question: Where were the Patriots’ rookie linebackers, which were high draft picks? Josh Uche, a 2020 second-round pick, missed his second consecutive week. He seemed to be healthy scratch in Week 1 but popped up on the injury report with an ankle problem in Week 2. And Anfernee Jennings has played just 11 snaps in the first two weeks.
Belichick was asked why Uche’s role has been nonexistent.
“We’ll see what he’s able to do when he’s able to participate fully on the field over a consistent period of time,” the Patriots coach said Wednesday. “Josh is a versatile player. He can do a number of things for our defense, as I’m sure you reported on in training camp. So, we’ll just see how all that comes together when he’s able to string some days together in game-plan situations. It’s a little different than training camp because it’s so game-plan specific but, we’ll work with him when that happens and he’s willing to work hard. He’s a hard working kid. He’s smart and he’s very competitive guy. He’s willing to work with whatever we want to do.”
Josh Uche and Adrian Phillips drilling with the linebackers.
Uche has his right ankle taped and should be at least limited on today’s injury report. pic.twitter.com/oyrFbktPxN
— Andrew Callahan (@_AndrewCallahan) September 23, 2020
Uche was, indeed, lining up all over the Patriots’ defensive front for the first few weeks of training camp, and he was getting quality reps. But for whatever reason, the Patriots left him out of their game plan in Week 1, and because of his injury, he wasn’t a part of it in Week 2 either.
Belichick was asking how Uche is doing transitioning from Michigan to the pros.
“I’m not really worried about Michigan,” Belichick said. “He’s been here for a while. He understands our defense. He knows what different assignments and different positions require. Again, some of that will be game-plan specific from week-to-week and I know he’ll work hard at whatever we ask him to do. We’ll see how that comes along.”
It sounds like the Patriots aren’t committed to getting Uche — or Jennings — more involved in the coming game, even while hosting Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs entering Week 2 with 181 rushing yards and three touchdowns.