The Patriots ruled out Josh Uche again in Week 2, but there’s a reason for it.
Former Michigan linebacker and 2020 second-round pick Josh Uche was a healthy scratch in the New England Patriots’ Week 1 win over the Miami Dolphins. In Week 2 ahead of their primetime game against the Seattle Seahawks, Uche was again ruled out, this time with an ankle issue.
Patriots fans were rightly concerned after Week 1 because we’ve been hearing good things about the versatile defender, who was expected to have a big role after Dont’a Hightower opted out.
However, it appears Anfernee Jennings has taken over that role for now, and the Patriots are thinking big with Uche. In other words, he has a lot more to learn before being thrown into the fire.
Here’s what Patriots insider Mike Reiss had to say about it:
"“While some might view it a cause for concern, I see it differently. Uche is essentially being asked to make a position switch, from primarily a pass-rusher to all-around linebacker — somewhat similar to what Tedy Bruschi went through in 1996. That’s a huge jump, especially in the Patriots’ scheme. His time will come.”"
We know how complex the Patriots’ defensive system is under Bill Belichick, so if the team is asking him to be a jack-of-all-trades linebacker, you simply can’t expect the 22-year-old to be ready for action after the shortened/tumultuous offseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the end of the day, the Patriots, especially on defense, will be able to get by in the interim without a rookie contributor. The organization is clearly thinking big picture here with Uche’s role, and there’s little reason to jeopardize that early in his career.
When you realize Jim Harbaugh underutilized him at Michigan, too, he’s probably got a lot on his plate in New England. In just 26 career college games, Uche registered 52 tackles (19.5 for a loss), 15.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. That’s some serious production when you consider an overwhelming majority of those numbers came in his final 21 games across his junior and senior seasons.
Things are looking up for Uche. The Patriots are expecting a lot from him, and Belichick isn’t going to force it. We trust this guy to develop defensive talent, right? Yup, that’s what we thought.