After surrendering nearly 200 rushing yards to the Packers in Sunday's loss at Lambeau Field, the Patriots are bringing in reinforcements at linebackers with a familiar face re-joining the team.
According to ESPN's Mike Reiss, the Patriots are bringing back linebacker Jamie Collins for a fourth stint in New England. Following his release by the Lions last September, Collins played the final 11 games of the 2021 season with the Patriots but wasn't initially re-signed and remained an unrestricted free agent until reports surfaced that he'll be back with the Patriots on Monday. New England has an open roster spot on the 53-man roster after placing swing tackle Yodny Cajuste (thumb) on injured reserve over the weekend.
As we mentioned, the run defense struggled to slow down Green Bay's rushing attack for most of Sunday's loss. With injured veteran Raekwon McMillan (thumb) inactive, the Pats initially tried Ja'Whaun Bentley and Mack Wilson off the ball. However, Wilson, who has struggled with play recognition, was eventually replaced by Jahlani Tavai, who then had issues getting off blocks at the second level.
With the Patriots run-blitzing Bentley on early downs, the weakside linebacker spot tasked with chasing down ball carriers wasn't good enough on Sunday, and that's why Collins is back.
During his 11-game stint with the Patriots last season, Collins played both as an outside linebacker on the line of scrimmage and an inside linebacker off the ball. The 32-year-old made impact plays as an edge-setter, pass rusher and while dropping into zone coverage. Using his athleticism and improved mental processing, Collins tallied seven quarterback pressures, nine run stops, and an interception in 200 defensive snaps a year ago (31.4 percent).
With most of the issues coming at the second level and against the run, the question is, can Collins make a difference with most of his splash plays coming in the passing game?
Pro Football Focus grading isn't gospel, but they saw something similar as us with Collins last season. The Pats linebacker had an excellent 91.0 coverage grade and an above-average pass-rush mark (68.2) but struggled in run defense (57.8).
The Patriots could use Collins as a hopefully more consistent standup edge rusher opposite Matthew Judon than their current options (Uche, Jennings). Still, where they need the most help is at inside linebacker, which is a big reason why the Pats are 29th in EPA per rush allowed.
Although it's disappointing that the newer contributors haven't stood out in the first four games, New England is understandably bringing in competition to push the players on the roster.