Cam Jordan compares Patriots’ linebacker to Von Miller
Because the Patriots’ defense has performed far beyond expectations this year and so many players have contributed, Josh Uche’s breakout season has continued to fly under the radar.
A familiar recruit from the University of Michigan, expectations were high for Uche upon drafting in 2020. Although his NFL career began in late October of that year due to spending the first several games on injured reserve, he showed potential from the start and has consistently improved throughout the next two years.
In the ten games he’s played this season, Uche has set a career-high with seven sacks, all of which have come in his last four games. That’s an incredible jump from his first two years in the league, totaling just four sacks in 21 games. He has also accumulated a career-high in tackles and tied his rookie season in quarterback hits with seven.
Since returning from a hamstring injury in week eight, the linebacker has been a force within an already overachieving defense. With mentor Matthew Judon on the other side, the pair have shown true dominance and brought that much-needed pass rush that the Patriots have needed over the last several seasons.
After his best performance of the season last Thursday against the Bills, a game in which he totaled two sacks, six tackles, three quarterback hits, and a forced fumble, Uche has caught the attention of veteran pass rusher Cameron Jordan of the New Orleans Saints.
During his most recent episode of Cam’s Corner for The 33rd Team, Jordan broke down the forced fumble play from last week. While discussing Uche’s athleticism and natural abilities, he shared some high praise for the third-year linebacker, comparing him to the pass-rushing great Von Miller.
"“Matt Judon has spoken highly about this guy, and there’s a reason why. Josh Uche got that sauce now. He’s coming off the edge, and I mean, they were playing the Bills, but he looked like Von Miller from the Bills with that patented ghost (move) that he has. I mean, Josh Uche gets off the ball and he’s blazing off the line. He’s able to dip his inside shoulder below the left tackle’s targeted punch. Uche’s too fast, too athletic. He’s able to slip underneath, eliminate that space, and then he brings it back up with a rip for a big sack, forced fumble to help his D-line get it. …(The Patriots) don’t get the win, but plays like that can be game-changers.”"
The comparison to Miller may seem premature to some, especially since Uche was playing against a backup left tackle against the Bills. Still, Jordan is a seasoned veteran who has seen and been around dozens of players throughout his career. He is one of the most elite defensive ends in the game, with seven Pro Bowl selections and three All-Pro honors during his twelve-year career in New Orleans. If he likes what he sees out of Uche, especially after watching the film, his word holds more weight due to the caliber of player he is than if said by most others.
In his complimentary review of one of Uche’s big plays, he mentioned Judon’s praise of the 24-year-old earlier this season. Earlier this season, Judon revealed he had taken a special interest in mentoring younger linebackers, including Uche. Since working with him over the last two seasons, he shared how highly he thinks of Uche and believes he’s the best pass rusher on the Patriots when speaking to the media last month.
"“He can be a premier pass rusher. I always tell him, he’s probably the best pass rusher we’ve got.”"
Generally not one to ignore standout performances, Bill Belichick also took part in the praise on Wednesday, mentioning Uche’s availability as one of his best assets this season.
"“I think the biggest thing for Josh this year has just really been his availability. Josh is a good athlete, and he has good speed off the edge and good pass-rush techniques, but you build that through timing, consistency, running games with your teammates and so forth.And he’s done that since he’s been here, but this year, he’s been able to do it on a more consistent basis in practice and training camp and really build that continuity as opposed to being in and out of things and sometimes not fully being available for some of the roles that this year, he’s really been available for on almost a daily basis. So I think that’s helped him as much as anything.”"
Belichick has remained complimentary of Uche, particularly this season, revealing he was named the signal-caller for third-down plays. Because a handful of veteran defensive players did not return this season, he’s finally had the opportunity to carve out an important role for himself within the defense. His uptick in performance is the proven reason why he deserves all the praise he’s been receiving lately, from his teammates and head coach to players around the league.
With five games left in the season, Uche has more time to build upon his breakout season. The road ahead is filled with tough competition. As the offense continues to figure out its identity, the defense will need to continue making plays to give Mac Jones and company more opportunities. If Uche and his teammates can maintain what they’ve shown so far, they could be the very reason the team is successful the rest of the way.