New England Patriots rookie linebacker Ja’Whuan Bentley had an excellent professional debut against the Washington Redskins.
The New England Patriots defense was underwhelming for the 2017 season. Specifically, it was the run defense that was lacking more often than not.
The Patriots gave up 4.7 yards per carry, which was tied for the second-worst mark in the league with the Los Angeles Rams. The 114.8 yards per game they allowed ranked them 20th in the NFL as well.
Winning as many games as they did certainly help New England keep the yardage number now. They faced only 390 rushing attempts all season, the fifth fewest in the NFL. Had teams not needed to abandon the run early in games, the yards per game numbers would have been much worse.
As a result, the Patriots put some resources into the run defense. One of the additions they made was in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft selecting Ja’Whaun Bentley.
Bentley was a monster of a human being, standing 6’2″ and weighing 260 pounds. While speed was a concern heading into the draft, there were no concerns over his production.
In four years at Purdue, Bentley recorded 272 total tackles, 29.5 of which went for a loss. In his final season at Purdue, Bentley was one of the highest graded linebackers in the nation.
In his professional debut against the Washington Redskins, Bentley kept the high grades rolling. Bentley was recognized by Pro Football Focus as a preseason Week 1 standout.
Bentley received a 90 in his debut. He tied for the team lead with six tackles in the game, five which were of the solo variety. Bentley also recorded two tackles for loss.
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Here is what was said about his grade at Pro Football Focus.
"The Patriots fifth-rounder from this past April had himself a day against the Redskins. He had four stops in coverage and didn’t allow either of his two targets to go for first downs."
Coverage was considered his weakness coming into the NFL. After one game it looks like he has improved in that area, showcasing sure tackling. If Bentley continues improving in the passing game, he will be difficult to keep off the field.
While preseason performances should be evaluated with a grain of salt, this was an excellent debut for Bentley.
Given his prowess as a run defender, Bentley should find his way onto the field based on that. If he continues showing development in pass defense, he could have a big role for New England later on in the season.