Jamie Collins had his coming of age moment in the Patriots Division Playoff matchup against the Colts, during which he accounted for an interception and sack. Afterwards he said it was “definitely” the best game he’d ever played.
Flash forward to this summer and teammate Dont’a Hightower has only praise for Collins in their OTA work.
Hightower said to ESPN Boston reporter Mike Reiss:
“I feel like he’s blossomed a lot sooner than anybody [thought]. I feel like he was a lot more mature in his first year than some people are in their third year. Him coming in and learning the way he did his first year, you couldn’t tell he wasn’t a three- or four-year player. He’s helping out a lot, getting the younger guys in there and watching film and getting everything situated with them. Just like [Jerod] Mayo said, ‘we have old souls.’ We mature faster.”
Both Hightower and Collins are 24-years-old and are likely to start beside Jerod Mayo, who is the grandpa at the position at 28-years-old. Mayo’s words about “old souls” need to be true for the Patriots defense. The younger players at linebacker and defensive line will have strong presences — and likely highly snap counts — this season. Chandler Jones (24) needs to build upon his strong performance and rookie Dominique Easley (22) will likely be used often in relief for the older starters at defensive tackle in Vince Wilfork (32) and Tommy Kelly (33).
Collins and High tower will be at the center of New England’s youth movement on defense. They will determine, in large part, how successful the Patriots are this season.