Patriots lose valuable season to evaluate linebacker Anfernee Jennings

Anfernee Jennings of the Alabama Crimson Tide speaks to the media on day three of the NFL Combine. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Anfernee Jennings of the Alabama Crimson Tide speaks to the media on day three of the NFL Combine. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots have suffered another tough loss on defense and special teams.

Last week was a wild one. We saw the starting quarterback job change in the most unexpected way imaginable and Stephon Gilmore land on the PUP. What was hidden in between those colossal bits of news was linebacker Anfernee Jennings’ season coming to an end before it even started.

Jennings was to take the next step in 2021 after getting picked up in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft and splitting time during his rookie season on defense (29% of the snaps) and special teams (24% of the snaps).

The Pats were practically in awe of everything that he could provide to the team upon his arrival. He was able to wow fans with his preparedness to hop right in and get to work on defense, but now the team is losing a very valuable year to evaluate the former Alabama stud.

He was placed on Injured Reserve before being named to the 53-man roster, so instead of only missing the first three weeks, he won’t be suiting up at all in 2021.

How Anfernee Jennings’ season ending before it starts will impact the Patriots

For starters (and for anyone who may not already know), a player needs to be on the 53-man roster and then placed on IR to return at any point in the season, as stated by Mike Reiss on Twitter.

Though the Patriots stacked their linebacking corps with other outside pass rushers, losing out on the depth Jennings could’ve provided in the event of other injuries or roster issues is significant. And with the way Bill Belichick values special teams, Jennings contributions would have also been worthwhile.

Jennings is in New England until 2023, but Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy are free agents after this season. Chase Winovich’s future is unclear. Jennings could’ve been battling with guys like Josh Uche and Ronnie Perkins for a spot in the pecking order, but now it’ll be up to those guys to show Belichick that there’s promise for the linebacking corps moving forward.

Jennings previously expressed his appreciation for Hightower’s return after the veteran opted out of 2020 while the Patriots largely decimated (and young) defense was left to figure it out. This offseason, Hightower’s tutelage has been a game-changer for a lot of the first- and second-year players.

Perhaps, depending on the severity of his injury, Jennings can still soak up some knowledge from Hightower and the other veterans, but at this point it’s unclear what the former Crimson Tide linebacker will be limited to after we were hit with the tough news last week.