Sunday, January 12, 2014

Rookie Collins slides into important role with ease


Jamie Collins was the next man up in the New England Patriots' next-man-up defense.

The rookie linebacker delivered.

Collins stepped up Saturday night to fill the void left by incumbent starter Brandon Spikes, who was placed on injured reserve last week, and did so admirably in the Patriots' 43-22 Divisional round victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

Spikes' role had been shrinking over the past few weeks, while Collins was becoming a bigger part of the defense. Still, it was his most prominent showing yet.

Collins had a sack in the third quarter and an interception in the fourth, but his multiple pressures on quarterback Andrew Luck -- including one that resulted in another interception -- and his sound coverage on Colts tight end Coby Fleener were equally as impressive.

"His future in the NFL is very bright," Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich said after the game, via

It was a coming out party of sorts for the young 'backer, and his promising performance will certainly give the Patriots a little more confidence at the position moving forward, beyond what happens in the coming weeks, as Spikes is slated for free agency and Jerod Mayo is coming off a season-ending injury of his own.

"All the work that he put in, it's showing up now," safety Devin McCourty said, via The Providence Journal. "I'm happy for him. I think he has a lot more big games in him."

Collins will get a chance to further prove himself next weekend on the AFC Championship stage against either the San Diego Chargers or Denver Broncos.

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