Opening day countdowns are great. So are player profiles. Here at Musket Fire, we decided to combine them and create a Week 1 countdown-oriented, jersey number-dictated player profile series. Yesterday we looked at No. 45 D.J. Lynch, and the day before that it was No. 46 james Develin. Because today marks 44 days until the New England Patriots open 2015, we are profiling No. 44, rookie linebacker Matthew Wells.
Taken by the Patriots with the 178th overall pick in this spring’s draft after starting 26 games for Mississippi State over the past two seasons, Wells is a Belichickian player if there ever was one. As a linebacker, he’s as untraditional as they come. Three words describe Wells: speed, versatility and coverage ability.
At 6-foot-2 and 222 pounds, Wells is very small for an NFL linebacker. To make the team and carve out a role for himself, he will have to make up for his undersized frame with his blazing speed. At his pro day, Wells stood out by clocking a 4.43-second 40-yard dash time. That’s unreal speed for a linebacker prospect, and Wells will have to use that trait to his advantage in training camp.
Bill Belichick was keen on the virtually unknown Wells during the pre-draft process because of his impressive versatility. In just the Mississippi State-Texas A&M game, Wells managed to line-up at five different positions: middle linebacker, outside linebacker, edge rusher, slot corner and safety. Without a doubt, Belichick will have fun playing around with Wells all over the defense, sort of like the Boston Red Sox do with Brock Holt.
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It is in coverage where Wells shines the most. He is capable of covering all manner of receivers, but in the pros, he will be delegated to covering tight ends, something he is very much up to the task of doing. At Mississippi State, Wells was thrown at 43 times, allowing 21 receptions for 212 yards and no touchdowns. Opposing quarterbacks registered a poor 63.3 passer rating when targeting Wells.
Here’s further evidence of Wells’ prowess in coverage:
It’s a crowded field of veterans and promising rookies that will be contending for precious few spots in the Patriots’ linebacking corps, but Wells has a lot going for him and will at least make the practice squad. Don’t be surprised if he gets some snaps in Week 1.
In case you missed them, here are the profiles for No. 47 Michael Hoomanawanui, No. 48 Geneo Grissom No. 49 Joe Cardona, No. 50 Rob Ninkovich, No. 51 Jerod Mayo, No. 52 Dane Fletcher, No. 53 Eric Martin, No. 54 Dont’a Hightower, No. 55 Jonathan Freeny, No. 58 Darius Fleming, No. 59 Chris White, No. 60 David Andrews, No. 61 Marcus Cannon, No. 62 Ryan Wendell and No. 63 Tre’ Jackson.