Former Michigan linebacker Josh Uche was drafted in the second round of this year’s NFL Draft by the New England Patriots. He is the second drafted player to sign a deal with the first being Baltimore’s fifth-round pick Broderick Washington.
Uche has signed a four-year deal with New England. What does this signing mean for the New England Patriots other than just some other rookie deal?
The departures of Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins created a huge void at the LB position. Kyle Van Noy had the highest number of quarterback hits on the team last year with 15, while Jamie Collins ranked third with 10. Collins also led the Patriots in solo tackles, as well as tackles for loss. These two players were an essential core to the Patriots’ top-ranked defense who led the league in points-against and yards.
The Patriots selected Josh Uche as well as Alabama linebacker Anfernee Jennings with the hope that they could fill those large shoes. By signing Uche, the Patriots will be adding a pass-rusher to a defense in need of strong edge defenders.
In his senior year, Uche appeared in all 13 games for the Wolverines and started in nine. In those 13 games, he recorded a total of 35 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, and eight-and-a-half sacks. Uche led the team in both tackles and in sacks. He received the team’s Defensive Player of the Year honors and was named to the All-Big Ten’s Second Team defense.
Here’s every Josh Uche sack from last season. pic.twitter.com/X6ZmrrwaWw
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) May 5, 2020
In his first three seasons, Uche had not started in any games but still received an honorable mention for All-Big Ten defense in his Junior year with seven sacks in 12 games.
He played alongside Patriots edge rusher Chase Winovich in his junior year, where both players terrorized Big Ten offenses. After Uche was selected, Winovich spoke out by saying “When he was at Michigan, I remember before every game we’d talk about what techniques we were going to use to beat the tackles that week. Great to be able to have that chemistry back, possibly.”
Patriots LB Josh Uche (2nd round, 60th) on Chase Winovich: "That was my boy. When he was at Michigan, I remember before every game we'd talk about what techniques we were going to use to beat the tackles that week. Great to be able to have that chemistry back, possibly."
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) April 25, 2020
Uche should be able to make an impact on the strong New England defense. He will have many opportunities to play as an edge rusher and potentially make a difference in important games.
Though Uche has only limited starting reps in college, his stats and highlights show the reasons why he was a second-round draft pick and why the Patriots traded up to pick him at pick 60. His playing style and build have drawn some comparisons to former Patriots legend Tedy Bruschi.
14 sacks my senior year. 52 career. But welcome to NE, kid. 😂 😉 https://t.co/SENxWr1r1F
— Tedy Bruschi (@TedyBruschi) April 25, 2020
Bruschi was a huge standout at Arizona and a third-round pick to the Patriots in 1996. He became the NCAA’s all-time sacks leader that year. Bruschi’s career consisted of 13 seasons as a Patriots linebacker with five trips to the Super Bowl and a three-time Super Bowl Champion (36, 38, and 39).
Although it is too early to tell if Bruschi is Uche’s true NFL comparison, the former Wolverine LB has shown that he has a strong motor and is very athletic. He can be a strong defender for years to come for New England and will be able to learn and develop his Linebacker instincts from one of the greatest coaches in NFL history as well as veteran linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
Let’s hope that Josh Uche can replicate the success that Tedy Bruschi brought to New England. But before then, Uche will hope to fill the giant void in the LB position that boosted the Patriots to be one of the elite defenses in the NFL.