At one point, it appeared as though Chase Winovich might blossom into the New England Patriots‘ next great pass rusher?
He tallied 5.5 sacks as a rookie with the first four coming in a four-week span.
After some struggles in 2020 and being “suspiciously absent” during OTAs and minicamp, per Pat’s Pulpit’s Bernd Buchmasser, some are predicting he might not make the 53-man roster heading into the 2021 regular season.
NESN’s Doug Kyed called Winovich “expendable,” and questioned if he would have a role on the defense in 2021. Kyed answered a mailbag question about the third-year pro as followed:
“I’m interested to see what kind of role Chase Winovich can find this offseason. Linebacker is a crowded position, and Belichick made Winovich expendable a few times last season.”
Josh Uche’s Rise Might Be a Factor
If Winovich was expendable in 2020, the play of his fellow Michigan Wolverines alum Josh Uche might make that even more of a thing in 2021. Uche made quite the impression during OTAs and training camp.
In fact, CLNS’ Evan Lazar referred to him as “unblockable.”
“It’s hard to put much stock in pass-rush reps without pads, but Uche is a blur off the ball,” Lazar said. “He tested Trent Brown on a speed rush early in practice and then smoked rookie tackle Will Sherman during 11-on-11s with a “ghost” move where he fakes a punch and dips underneath to turn the corner. If Uche is this good once the pads go on, watch out for the year two breakout.”
Uche’s upside is real, and because the two men have similar primary skill sets, the former’s emergence could impact Winovich’s spot on the team.
The Patriots Have Great Depth in the Front Seven
When you take a look at what Bill Belichick did to improve the front seven during the offseason, it was pretty impressive. The result, as The Boston Globe’s Jim McBride put it, is “a scary bunch of pass rushers.”
However, you may notice, throughout McBride’s spiel, which is quoted below, there is no mention of Winovich.
Hightower is front and center in a remade linebacking corps that also features the return of Kyle Van Noy (from the Dolphins) and the arrivals of Judon and Raekwon McMillan. In addition, the club has Ja’Whaun Bentley and sophomores Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings. Thursday offered a tantalizing taste of the versatility this crew should be able to offer. The Patriots employ their linebackers in a number of schemes and sub packages, and being able to serve in multiple roles is the key to success. Hightower, Van Noy, Judon, and Uche stood out at several points during the practice and likely would have registered a number of sacks. This could be New England’s scariest bunch of pass rushers in a number of seasons (apologies to the Boogiemen of years past).
Is Winovich the forgotten man, or even expendable? Based on a recent post on his Instagram account, he’s seemingly trying to remind fans he’s still a force to be reckoned with on the field.
Perhaps the storm won’t be felt in Foxboro.