FOXBORO — New England Patriots linebacker Anfernee Jennings was expected to make huge strides in his second NFL season.
Unfortunately, it came to an end before it even started.
He was placed on injured reserve before being named to the 53-man roster, so instead of only missing the first three weeks of the season he missed the entire 2021 season.
Entering his third year, Jennings is confident things will be different this season.
“Last year was last year,” Jennings said on Wednesday. “I can’t do nothing about it. I can’t get it back. But I’m here now, and I’m looking forward to it."
Jennings, a third-round pick (87th overall) from Alabama in 2020, was a promising young player coming out of the SEC. After playing in 15 games as a redshirt freshman, Jennings played in a total of 48 games over the next four years at Alabama, logging 193 total tackles, 33.5 tackles for loss, and 14.5 sacks. In 2019 he earned first-team All-SEC honors after gathering 83 total tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks, and five passes defended in 13 games started.
So what can we expect from Jennings? How did he handle missing all of last season?
“I matured a lot, on the field and off,” Jennings said. “I had a lot of time to myself, a lot of time to just reflect and evaluate; edit my lifestyle, edit what I was doing on and off the field. Create my own identity.”
So far in camp, the 25-year-old has impressed as he looks to earn a roster spot. He has generated pressure on quarterback Mac Jones, as well been consistent in setting the edge, earning extra reps with Matthew Judon out today.
Bill Belichick seems content having his young linebacker back in the fold.
“He’ll get some good opportunities coming up in the near future along with some other guys in that position, and we’ll see how it turns out,” Belichick said. “But it’s good to have him out there.”
With Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins still on the free-agent market and Kyle Van Noy now with the Los Angeles Chargers, there will be plenty of opportunities for Jennings to compete.
For the time being, Jennings is behind Judon on the depth chart, but Belichick embraces the next-man-up mentality. At any given moment Jennings' name could be called upon.
We will finally get a chance to see Jennings in game action when the Patriots start their three-game preseason schedule on Aug. 11 against the New York Giants.