Patriots linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley has grossly underperformed this season.
The New England Patriots’ defense has regressed in emphatic fashion this season compared to the dominance it exuded on a weekly basis in 2019. That was obviously to be expected given how many key players left in free agency and opted out prior to the start of training camp.
However, we would assert that their absences should almost be viewed as a blessing in disguise for the coaching staff. After all, it paved the way for a multitude of young players to earn consistent playing time, and thus get properly evaluated by the coaching staff.
As far as players who have failed to make the most of their opportunities, inside linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley is one of the first that comes to mind, as the Patriots are currently surrendering more rushing yards per carry with him on the field compared to when he’s on the sidelines.
Outside of racking up tackles — any linebacker should be capable of doing that — Bentley hasn’t offered of anything to the Patriots this season in regards to wreaking havoc in the backfield. In 11 starts, the 2018 fifth-round pick has just 1.5 sacks, three tackles for loss, three QB hits and zero forced fumbles.
This comes despite him playing 67% of the defensive snaps, which is a lot when you consider how much the Patriots rotate on defense (especially at linebacker). With this lack of production in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that Bentley has generated a woeful 53.5 grade from Pro Football Focus.
What further proves that the 24-year-old isn’t the answer at LB is the fact that he’s getting vastly outplayed against the run by the likes of Chase Winovich and Anfernee Jennings, both of whom have far less experience than him. Take a look at these telling numbers provided by NESN reporter Doug Kyed.
Not a huge sample size, but that says a lot! These guys are making impacts with their limited playing time.
Despite the encouraging signs from the likes of Winovich, Jennings and Josh Uche, the Patriots really need to upgrade at the inside linebacker position in the offseason. The eventual return of stalwart Dont’a Hightower will serve as a massive reinforcement, but we simply cannot see Bentley play a prominent role, at least in obvious running situations, on this defense in 2021.