Jamie Collins is back with the Patriots for a third tour of duty with the team after being signed earlier this week to a one-year deal. Drafted in 2013's second round, Collins quickly impressed with his unique athleticism that allows him to make plays all over the field, providing a much-needed injection of playmaking upon his arrival and into his early years with the team. In 2021, the Patriots will hope for a similar kind of contribution, as Collins' production has been unequaled outside of New England.
Collins was grateful to be back in New England, with the team that drafted him and gave him his first shot.
"Glad to be back, it's an honor," said Collins on Friday, his first time speaking with the media. "I'm always blessed and grateful for opportunities like this because this place, they took a chance on me coming out. This is where I started, this place gave me a chance to live out a dream and be something that I've always wanted to be. I'm always super grateful."
Collins has recorded at least one interception, one forced fumble and one sack in each of the last seven seasons, as he has been one of the most balanced linebackers to come through New England. His best years came in 2015 and 2019 with the Patriots. Combined in those two seasons, Collins had four interceptions, eight forced fumbles and 12.5 sacks.
Despite that experience, Collins still feels like he's in catch-up mode.
"The standard over here is very high," said Collins. "They got the wins, they get the Super Bowls, they got everything to back it up. It's only right to come in and try to catch up...I've been here but I still feel behind right now."
Head coach Bill Belichick was non-committal when asked if Collins would be in the lineup this weekend against the Texans.
"Jamie has experience in our system and we feel like he gives us some depth at that spot, he has some versatility," said Bill Belichick. "We'll work through it and see how it goes.
For his part, Collins is hoping to jump right in.
"I hope so," said Collins. "We'll see...I'm just privileged and honored and grateful to be here but whatever the man want, the man get.
"I'm just coming here to do whatever they ask me to do."
Five Points of Emphasis vs. Texans
- OL Scramble: The offensive line is banged up and there's much uncertainty as to who will be available against the Texans and what the starting five will look like. Overall, the OL was already off to a slow start, failing to consistently protect Mac Jones (34 QB Hits, 10 sacks taken) or open holes in the running game (31st in rushing yards-per-game). Now things get even more complicated and some of the depth players will be called on to step up, starting with Ted Karras and Justin Herron. Can the makeshift line string together an improved performance? It might be the question that determines how close this game is. The offense should certainly target the Texan's run defense, perhaps Rhamondre Stevenson gets another shot this week, but it all starts with the o-line.
- Mac vs. Tampa 2: Mac Jones has seen his fair share of difficult defenses through his first four starts. Miami threw all kinds of disguises and blitzes at him, while New Orleans and Tampa Bay feature two of the toughest defenses in the league. It doesn't get too much easier against Houston's defense that is ranked 28th in points against and 28th in yards, but 14th on third down and 10th inside the red zone. But defensive coordinator Lovie Smith has long relied on his Tampa 2 style of defense and it should be a bit of a break for Jones' mental processing. The Texans do what they do on defense and that could help the Patriots offense find a rhythm.
- Collins In: How will the Patriots employ Jamie Collins after bringing the linebacker back for his third stint with the team? Expect him to jump right in and be heavily involved, as his versatility and playmaking skills should give the linebacker group a boost. Bill Belichick seems to know how to best employ Collins and he should quickly be a factor.
- Run D Ready?: The Texans have a stable of backs that, at various points over the last five years, might've be considered one of the best in the NFL. But this 2021 and Mark Ingram and David Johnson aren't quite still the same players they once were. Though the Patriots run defense made strides in recent weeks, it will still be tempting for Houston to target their front early and often with their backfield. Phillip Lindsay and his receiving ability might just cause the most problems. There's no better way for Houston to get an edge on New England than to get their ground game going. If their trio does that it will be play-action bombs away to Brandin Cooks.
- Win: At 1-3 there are no expectations or style points. The Patriots badly need a win and if they can't knock off Houston, it's a bad sign for the rest of the 2021 season. Learning to win close games is paramount and once the Pats get over the hump a little confidence could go a long way. But NFL road wins are never a given and they'll have to earn it in Houston.
The Patriots wrapped up their week of practice on the upper fields on Friday, unfortunately again missing four of their top five offensive linemen. Isaiah Wynn and Michael Onwenu remain on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, while Shaq Mason (abdomen) and Trent Brown (calf) were also absent for the third-straight day. Shaun Wade (concussion) missed his second straight practice.