Where Do the Patriots Go Defensively Without Collins

Steve Balestrieri
November 1, 2016 at 6:44 am ET

The Patriots pulled a stunner with the decision to trade Jamie Collins on Monday. That move was one that no one saw coming and the move to Cleveland for a conditional 3rd round draft pick seems a bit light in terms of compensation. Now the bigger question is where do they go defensively without the most athletic player on the team.

But first, fans on social media are wanting to know why a team that is considered one of the frontrunners to make it to the Super Bowl would be a seller, rather than a buyer at the NFL trade deadline. And in doing so, trade arguably their best defensive player away.

The immediate knee jerk reaction was to think about Collins’ upcoming free agent status. Ben Volin of the Boston Globe wrote that the Patriots offered him a deal worth $11 million dollars a year but that he turned it down. Reports have filtered out that Collins is looking for “Von Miller kind of money” in his next contract.

That isn’t going to happen. At least not in New England. Mike Lombardi, until recently a member of Bill Belichick’s staff, and perhaps the one with the most insight into the what the Pats coach is thinking took to the airwaves Monday afternoon and said it wasn’t money related but play-based.

Lombardi said that Belichick and the coaches were getting peeved at the linebacker’s penchant for freelancing in the secondary and not following the called play. Some have called Collins overall play this season a disappointment and in that, I tend to agree with a point. We’ve come to expect so much from the freakishly athletic Collins while he’s on the field, that he can’t ever live up to expectations.

I thought he’s played pretty well this year. The Houston game was the one that stands out because in that one, Collins took over and the uber-dominant force we all think he should be every week. But there are other games where he just seemed to glide along for major portions of with the occasional splash play. I thought it was more of a scheme related thing than a play-based scenario.

As for Belichick, he’s repeating the mantra we’ve heard so many times before.

“In the end, we did what we thought was best for the football team. There are a lot of things to take into consideration. I’m sure we could bring up a lot of points to talk about, but in the end, that’s really the bottom line,” Bill Belichick said on WEEI Monday afternoon.

One thing about Belichick is that he doesn’t care what people think, doesn’t pay attention to the media and will put himself out there for criticism. The safe move could’ve been to keep Collins until the end of the year and let him walk. But he’s trying to send a message to his team that the play of the defense wasn’t good enough.

Just like with Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law, Logan Mankins, Randy Moss, Chandler Jones, and others Belichick isn’t worried about upsetting the apple cart. The move makes sense on one level, he did it during the bye week and once the players get over their shock, they’ll be off for a week and with extra time to prepare for Seattle.

Now all eyes will be on the Patriots defense and if the Patriots falter, Belichick will set himself up to take the heat. But just like the Honey Badger, “he doesn’t give a s**t.”

So now back to the subject at hand… Where do they go from here defensively without Collins. We got a glimpse of it on Sunday. On early downs, the team is obviously enamored with the play of inside thumper Elandon Roberts. He and Dont’a Hightower played most the early-down snaps. The rookie from Houston has been impressive with his downhill style and he plays much larger than a player his size. He’ll be getting an uptick in snaps from here on out.

The Patriots traded for Barkevious Mingo this summer from the Browns and while he rivals Collins in terms of uber-athleticism, he’s neither as big or as strong as Collins. But he can get after the QB and can cover the tight ends or backs out of the backfield. Last week the team traded for Kyle Van Noy who likewise can cover the tight ends and rush the passer a bit. They also can mix Rob Ninkovich back into the mix as well as Shea McClellin in there as well.

But it also means that the signal caller, Hightower will be leaned on more than ever. He’s the glue that holds all the pieces in place and the team doesn’t have anyone that can fill his shoes if he were to go down with an injury.

One thing we’ve all been clamoring for is for Matt Patricia to be more aggressive on the defensive side of the ball. The Patriots have been very passive and the “bend but don’t break” philosophy always gets on fans’ nerves. That doesn’t figure to change now. Their most explosive playmaker has been dealt away. So, this move isn’t going to alter that at all in the foreseeable future.

Are the Patriots better now than they were yesterday morning? No. I don’t subscribe to the “addition by subtraction” theme here. While I am not privy to the goings-on in the locker room, I doubt the very reserved and quiet Collins was a locker room distraction.

Are the moves done or as Lombardi hinted yesterday on FS1 more on the way? There are a few more hours until the trade deadline hits. The Patriots have proven time and again, they aren’t averse to making any moves if they feel it will help the football team.

But just like the days when guys like Milloy, Law, Mankins, et al were traded or let go, reserve judgment and let the chips fall where they will. How many times did we hear that the sky was falling in Foxboro and be proven wrong by Belichick? He’s earned that much in the years that he’s been pulling the strings in Foxboro. We all know that if this team falters now, that the blame will fall all on his shoulders and this deal will be the one that everyone points at. Belichick could care less.

“Honey Badger doesn’t give a s**t.”

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

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