Patriots: 3 defensive rookies who will make huge impacts in 2020

(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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Former Michigan LB Josh Uche (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Former Michigan LB Josh Uche (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

2. Josh Uche

Josh Uche led the nation with the highest quarterback pressure rate among all edge-rushing linebackers in 2019.

In an offseason where the Patriots lost versatile linebackers Kyle Van Noy (Dolphins), Jamie Collins (Lions), and Elandon Roberts (Dolphins) in free agency, in addition to Hightower via opt out, Uche holds great value and potential to step in and elevate the position group.

Uche, who stands at 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds, finished his college career at Michigan with only one year as a starter, but was able to tally 19.5 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks en route to being voted a Second Team All Big Ten defensive selection.

During his time as a Wolverine, Uche displayed great speed and strength to get through and around offensive lines to force mayhem in the backfield. He also showed tremendous awareness and is very active with his hands, which kept opposing offensive linemen off guard.

Mike Reiss of ESPN compared Uche to the great Tedy Bruschi in regards to his size and athleticism in getting after the quarterback. But in many ways Uche is more comparable to Van Noy in terms of overall versatility in playing more freely and all over the defense. Belichick as he will be able to utilize him in multiple ways on stunts, alignments, and even as a specialist.

After being drafted, Uche shared some insight on his perception of New England’s dominant defense on an episode of the Next Pats Podcast with Phil Perry.

"“We always studied the Patriots defense. I remember just watching film on Hightower and Van Noy and the way they run their stunts and everything. I was already familiarized with the defense. Going into the draft, I was like, ‘Man, if the Patriots grab me that’d be awesome because I already know some stuff they kind of do just because we implemented it into our scheme,’” Josh Uche told Perry."