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Josh Uche
NFL

Josh Uche’s Breakout Is Here And It’s Glorious

  • Justin Melo
  • December 13, 2022
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The New England Patriots claimed an important 27-13 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night. The win improves the Patriots to 7-6 and propels them into the AFC’s seventh and final postseason spot. Patriots third-year EDGE Josh Uche stole the show defensively. Uche lived in Arizona’s backfield by recording 3.0 sacks. It was Uche’s second three-sack performance of the season. Uche is beginning to emerge as an elite pass rusher.

Uche showcased a versatile pass-rushing toolbox throughout the contest. On this sack, in particular, Uche varied his tempo to defeat the would-be blocker en route to the quarterback. Uche even fought through a clear holding call.

Uche also displayed his ability to convert speed to power. Here, he bull-rushes Cardinals right tackle Kelvin Beachum into the lap of the quarterback before sacking Colt McCoy. Arizona’s blockers had no answer for Uche.

Uche has recorded an astounding 10.0 sacks throughout his latest five contests. He had previously accumulated zero sacks in his first five showings as a rotational pass rusher. Uche is a living example of why patience is required post-draft. 

He entered the 2020 NFL Draft as a raw one-year starter. Uche’s inexperience didn’t prevent the Patriots from trading up to 50th overall in the second round in order to secure his services, however. Uche’s 10.0 sacks are already a career-high. Uche managed just 1.0 sack as a rookie, and 3.0 last season as a sophomore. The light is officially coming on for Uche.

Uche’s ascension is worth marveling at. He entered the 2022 campaign with something to prove as a reserve outside linebacker. In Week 1, Uche played just 17 total defensive snaps. It accounted for approximately 28% of New England’s defensive plays. In Week 3, Uche’s playing time was downgraded to a measly five snaps. 

For the next several contests, Uche averaged somewhere between 16 and 32 total defensive snaps. The Patriots coaching staff is constantly rotating Uche in and out of the lineup. Uche’s three-sack performance against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 9 was achieved via just 25 total snaps (40%). A two-sack performance against the Buffalo Bills in Week 13 occurred via 32 snaps (43%). Uche has been incredibly efficient.

Uche played a season-high 48 snaps against the Cardinals on Monday. It accounted for 64% of New England’s defensive plays. It marked the first time this season that Uche has played 50% or more of his team’s defensive snaps. There remains room for growth, but Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and his defensive assistants are finally displaying increased faith in Uche’s abilities. Uche’s sack numbers could continue defying logic if his snap count begins consistently matching his performances.

Uche’s 10.0 sacks have occurred via 178 total pass-rushing snaps, per Pro Football Focus. He recorded a season-high six pressures against the Cardinals on Monday and has now totaled 34 quarterback pressures. Uche’s previous single-game season-high was five pressures, which he achieved just one week ago. Uche also has 22 hurries under his belt.

Uche’s form is earning praise from his starring running mate. Patriots EDGE Matthew Judon applauded Uche’s efforts throughout Monday’s post-game presser. It means something coming from Judon, who leads all Patriots defenders with 14.5 sacks and is tied for the league lead in that department alongside Nick Bosa.

“I told you all, I’m not our best pass rusher,” Judon said, insinuating that honor belongs to Uche. “Our best pass rusher is emerging.”

Emerging indeed. 

On Monday, Uche and Judon became the league’s first pass-rushing duo to reach double-digit sacks apiece this season. New England’s postseason aspirations are largely being carried by their defense. Uche is currently at the forefront of the Patriots’ success.

Written By

Justin Melo