With Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins all gone, Chase Winovich suddenly found himself in the spotlight heading into the 2020 regular season. After having served as in more of a rotational role as a rookie, he moved up the depth chart in a hurry in his second season with the New England Patriots.
Serving as the number two outside linebacker behind veteran John Simon, Winovich had an up-and-down campaign. He saw some inconsistent playing time, especially during the second quarter of the season, but still managed to finish as the Patriots’ most effective pass rusher: Winovich finished with 56.5 quarterback pressures and led the team in every single pass rushing category.
He notched 5.5 sacks as well as 18 hits and 33 additional hurries. With the exception of sacks — he had the same number in 2019 — his pass rushing and per-game snap numbers improved across the board.
Even with both Hightower and Van Noy back in the fold, and with Matthew Judon being added in free agency, the goal remains the same for Winovich heading into his third season in the system: get better and prove his value to the team.
Will he be able to do that? That remains to be seen, but it seems as if he is in a good position at the moment.
“I’ve been working a variety of different positions, I’d say. Right now I’m just doing whatever the coaches ask me to do,” Winovich noted during a recent media conference call. “All I can say is that I feel great overall — the best mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, you name it, that I’ve ever been. I’m really excited for the opportunities that present themselves this year.”
Winovich bringing his A-game would be good news for a Patriots pass rush that struggled in 2020. While the unit finished the season fifth in the league in terms of pressure rate (26.4%) it ranked only 26th with 24 sacks.
Improving that number and generating more positive plays via the pass rush has to be one of the team’s goals for the upcoming season. The aforementioned (re-)additions will obviously play a crucial role in this development, but so will Winovich’s growth after already being New England’s most disruptive player from a year ago.
Having a full arsenal of players available, and offseason workouts to built a rapport, also does not hurt.
“It’s awesome to be around my teammates, having this whole time the past few months to really get to know everybody. It has been a great opportunity for myself, just trying to build that camaraderie,” Winovich said.
“Dont’a, I haven’t had the opportunity to get reacquainted with him in person, unfortunately. But I’m excited for that to happen. It’s going to be great, honestly. I really am enjoying everybody that’s been here. This team is really starting to shape up, I think, and I am excited for those guys to all be around again. The Patriots have some awesome players on their team, awesome teammates.”
Besides the 26-year-old, the Patriots also have the aforementioned Van Noy and Judon at their disposal, as well as second-year man Josh Uche and third-round rookie Ronnie Perkins. Despite all that depth, however, Winovich still projects as a core member within the outside linebacker rotation.
Being in the best shape of his career certainly will help him get onto the field regardless of the competition he faces. And the New England front seven will be a better one for it.