The New England Patriots season is just around the corner, and it can’t come soon enough. In order to pass the time between now and the start of the season, Last Word on Pro Football is looking back at the best players in Patriots history by jersey number. With 91 days until kickoff, let’s take a look back at Jamie Collins, the Grover Cleveland of Patriots linebackers.
91 Day to Kickoff: Jamie Collins
Jamie Collins was born on October 20th, 1989 in McCall Creek, Mississippi. Collins’ freakish athletic gifts were on display from a young age, as he immediately became one of the stars on the Franklin County High School Football team. During his time in high school, Collins starred as a quarterback, wide receiver, safety, and linebacker. On top of that, Collins was also a star track and field athlete. Back in 2009, Collins qualified for the State track team thanks to his first-place finish the shot put and discus throw at the 2009 South State Meet.
Despite his freak athleticism, Collins didn’t receive that much fanfare in the collegiate scouting world. Rivals.com gave him a three-star ranking, and Collins eventually joined the University of Southern Mississippi. Just like in high school, Collins played all over the defensive formation, lining up at safety, defensive end, and linebacker. His star shined brightest at linebacker and Collins finished his career with 314 tackles, 21 sacks, three interceptions, and three touchdowns. His impressive play earned him All-Conference USA honors to go along with significant NFL Draft interest.
Jamie Collins with New England: Part One
Despite his freakish athleticism, most considered Collins a raw prospect coming out of the draft. Because of this, the Patriots were able to grab him with the 52nd overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. The Southern Mississippi product started the year on the bench behind Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower, and Dane Fletcher. However, Collins saw more and more playing time as the season went on and ended up breaking out in New England’s first playoff game. Facing off against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts, Collins recorded one interception, six tackles, two tackles-for-loss, one sack, and three quarterback hits. Collins was the star of the game and set the stage for a breakout 2014.
And break out he did. Starting in all 15 games in which he appeared, Collins finished the season with four sacks, four forced fumbles, two interceptions, 138 tackles, and 10 quarterback hits. He spent most of his time as a middle linebacker and soon became synonymous with devastating blitzes and huge game-changing plays. Collins was a key cog in a defense which ranked New England win their first Super Bowl in a decade.
Collins was even better in 2015. While he missed four games with an injury, he was one of the best linebackers in the league when fully healthy. During his 12 games on the field, Collins recorded 89 tackles, seven quarterback hits, 5.5 sacks, one interception, and a league-leading five forced fumbles. He finished the year as the fifth-best linebacker, per Pro Football Focus, and earned a spot on the Pro Bowl team.
Collins in Cleveland
Unfortunately, Collins’ play took a dip in 2016. While he was still a good linebacker, he wasn’t the same dominant force from 2014 and 2015. Knowing they couldn’t re-sign him, the Patriots dealt Collins to the Cleveland Browns at the 2016 trade deadline in exchange for a third-round pick.
Collins played eight games with Cleveland in 2016, recording 69 tackles, five quarterback hits, seven tackles-for-loss, and two sacks. The Browns clearly liked what they saw and signed Collins to a four-year, $50 million contract prior to the start of free agency.
Collins didn’t play up to that contract, as the one-time star linebacker regressed into a mediocre player in Cleveland. Over the 2017 and 2018 seasons, Collins recorded 135 tackles, 18 tackles-for-loss, nine quarterback hits, five sacks, and two interceptions. He wasn’t terrible by any means, but he wasn’t worth his hefty pay day. The Browns ultimately decided to move on and released Collins just two years after signing his massive deal.
After some time on the open market, the Patriots brought back their former draft pick on a one-year, “prove it” type contract. He’s currently fourth on the depth chart and battling with Elandon Roberts for one of the final spots on the roster.