Deatrich Wise Jr. was selected by the New England Patriots in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Deatrich follows in his father’s footsteps as Wise Sr. was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 1988. However, by making it past the practice squad, he’s already eclipsed the accomplishments of his father.
Bill Belichick has not been shy in letting Wise Jr. hit the field, and the rookie defensive end is a safe bet to be lined up opposite the Buffalo Bills this Sunday. Against a potent New England offense, it’s probable the Bills will need to pick up the scoring pace this week. With that in mind, we look at Deatrich Wise Jr. to see what impact he might have on the game.
Draft reports tended to compliment upper body strength and “punch” from Wise Jr., while subtly suggesting flaws in technique. Forecast as more of a strength-based rusher in the NFL, the expectation is one of collapsing pockets rather than setting the edge. Wise Jr. is listed at 6’5” and 274 lbs. Comparing him to a known player for Bills fans, this puts him 3” and 20 lbs heavier than Jerry Hughes, who is more known for speed and agility.
The lack of technique shows up clearly in NFL film, with no shortage of examples of offensive linemen getting him to turn his shoulders away from the ball carrier, taking him out of the play. Additionally, his lack of agility renders him unable to slip around to make a play.
As a result of his weaknesses, he is generally limited to bull rush and power based techniques if he’s going to have a shot at impacting the play. Based on the conducted review of NFL film, Deatrich could use another year of conditioning before he hits his ceiling. At the moment, he lacks the power to drive back many linemen. Often, pressures are more the result from a designed backpedal by the lineman. Double-teaming him is usually overkill and tight ends with solid blocking technique can often block him long enough to let a play develop as intended. For the Bills, both Charles Clay and Nick O’Leary fall in about 20 lbs lighter than Wise Jr. and shouldn’t be expected to win every match-up if assigned to Wise Jr. on a regular basis.
If there’s bad news for Bills fans with Deatrich, it’s that his shortcomings don’t seem to include effort. He’ll play through the whistle every snap and will try to reestablish himself in the play whenever possible.
There was a lot of buzz about the fall of New England’s defense earlier this year and Deatrich Wise Jr’s data might help explain some of it. In total, Wise has been on the field for just over half of the defensive snaps for New England this year. For a player with so many flaws to pair with the usual rookie growing pains, this is less than ideal. The suggestion then is that the schemes are as good as they’ve ever been in New England, but they’ve had some talent slip away.
During the first five games of the season when the Patriots defense was at its worst, Wise didn’t see snap counts higher than 48%. Since then, he hasn’t fallen below 50% and has flirted with 80% of defensive snaps a couple times. Coinciding with their defensive turnaround, it would indeed appear that Wise is the best of what they have in that position group.
Tackles and sacks are hard to perfectly interpret for Wise, as he’s used all over the defensive line. Wise has 13 tackles and 3 sacks on the season. Seeing snaps as both an end and tackle, he needs to be compared to both groups. Top defensive ends (Joey Bosa, Khalil Mack) are approaching 40 tackles and 6 to 12 sacks. For defensive tackles, Wise stacks up a little better, with standouts typically being in the lower 30s for tackles with no one having more than 9 sacks. The somewhat low snap counts earlier in the year help explain the lower totals for Wise.
The Patriots have covered up early season flaws on their defense via creativity and confusion. Tricks such as moving players like Wise all over the line make it tougher for opponents to consistently isolate a weak link.
The Bills should expect a healthy dose of Deatrich on Sunday and should have counters at the ready. The biggest advantage the Patriots will have regarding Wise will be the difficulty knowing where he’ll be lined up at any given time. If there’s ever been a week for the offense to allow Tyrod Taylor to have freedom at the line, it’s this week. With a little creativity of their own, the Bills can exploit the rookie to create some positive plays on offense.