In New England's 30-6 win over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 5, linebacker Jamie Collins had 10 tackles, a forced fumble, and a phenomenally-timed sack that was called back because of a teammate's penalty on the play.
Afterward, teammates marveled at the veteran's athletic ability.
"Dude's not human, man," safety/co-captain Devin McCourty stated.
"I must agree," added defensive end Jabaal Sheard. "He's a freak of an athlete."
"Jamie, obviously, is a freak and I'm happy that he's on my side," said another co-captain, defensive end Rob Ninkovich. "He's a tremendous athlete. He can run well and he can cover a receiver. The things he's experienced in the past – being a safety in college and all his cover skills – help him and now he's a tremendous linebacker. He's done a great job for us."
Patriots teammates on the other side of the ball are equally impressed by the third-year player's preternatural skills. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, as the leader of the scout team, must face Collins on a daily basis.
"He's made some phenomenal interceptions [in practice]," Garoppolo remarked. "Not many linebackers can catch the ball very well, but he has really good hand-eye coordination and can distort his body in different ways. It's very impressive.
"Jamie's a different type of player. There aren't many athletes like him. He's a linebacker, but he can cover anyone on the field really. He jumps out of the gym. Probably one of the best athletes I've ever seen in my life, honestly."
Through four games, Collins is among the NFL's leaders in total tackles and sacks. He also finds ways to help teammates get involved on defense. In Dallas, for instance, he lined up at left defensive tackle in a standing position, and at the snap, he rushed the guard's outside shoulder to occupy both the guard and right tackle. This allowed Sheard to stunt inside and get a free lane to the quarterback. Sheard registered an easy sack on the play.
While teammates rave about him, Collins has yet to gain traction on a national level, in terms of Pro Bowl recognition or other accolades, but if he continues to play at this level, that could change.
"I'm pretty sure it will. Most definitely," declared cornerback Malcolm Butler, a fellow Mississippi native. "I don't think he even wants the attention to be a superstar. Mississippi guy, man. Down-to-earth, humble guy. He lets his play on the field do the talking.
"Man, the guy is a beast. It's like he's a cornerback playing linebacker... He's so athletic. It's unexplainable, man. He's a great athlete. I've seen this guy do windmills, backflips, and all that shows up on the field with all his athleticism: sacks, filling gaps, interceptions, tackles, forced fumbles. The guy can do it all."
For the second straight day, veteran corner Tarell Brown was unable to practice due to a foot injury, so the Patriots have declared him out for Sunday's game at Indianapolis. Brown was the only Patriot not on the field Friday. According to NFL Network, Brown's injury is "potentially serious" and that the player is seeking a second opinion.
Running back Dion Lewis, meantime, was able to suit up despite suffering an abdominal injury during Thursday's session.