When the 2019 Draft experts spoke about the Patriots needs, one of the main topics of discussion was their pass rush. After losing Trey Flowers to a giant contract handed out by the Lions (who now have two holdout veterans wanting to get paid), New England had no choice but to go after a veteran (Michael Bennett) and also draft someone. They did just that in the 3rd Round when they selected defensive end Chase Winovich of Michigan, a player that has a chance to become a cult hero in New England. He also has a chance to become a very good NFL player.
Winovich, who is listed at 6’3, 256 pounds, is the latest in high-motor, total package defensive ends drafted by Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Winovich, who is 24 years old, was born in Jefferson Hills, Pennsylvania. He attended high school at Thomas Jefferson High School in Jefferson Hills. Winovich was a terrific player in high school, earning four-star ratings from Scout.com, 247 Sports, and Rivals. ESPN had him as a three-star, but that isn’t surprising considering they are typically wrong. While Winovich was dominating in high school, there were a ton of big-time schools battling for his services.
The list of schools that recruited Winovich was impressive; Michigan, Akron, Arkansas, Boston College, Bowling Green, Florida State, Illinois, Miami, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Old Dominion, Oregon, Pitt, Syracuse, Toledo, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Stanford, Penn State, and lastly, West Virginia. Most thought that Winovich was going to end up at Ohio State because he grew up as a fan of the team and he was being heavily recruited by them. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, he chose to sign with their hated rival, the Michigan Wolverines. The reason he chose the Buckeyes was simple- Brady Hoke was “real” with him in the recruiting process, which is not something he could say about Urban Meyer and many other coaches who tried to secure his services. Considering the style Bill Belichick has, which is as “real” as it gets, Winovich is going to love the coaching style in New England.
Winovich put up strong numbers in high school, playing outside linebacker and quarterback. He finished his sophomore year with 47 tackles, but he didn’t get any opportunities on offense. As a junior, he exploded; he finished with 69 tackles, nine sacks, and four fumble recoveries. Once again he didn’t play much on offense (four carries for 38 yards) but was absolutely dominant on the defensive side of the ball. His senior year was a culmination of a terrific career, and he also played both ways. He finished with 57 tackles, 13 sacks, three forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. As a quarterback, Winovich didn’t throw it often, but he was still effective. He finished the year 14/29 for 210 yards and three touchdowns. He ran the ball 115 times for 981 yards and 17 touchdowns. Winovich was clearly not a quarterback in the making, but his coaches recognized that he was impossible to tackle, so they put the ball in his hands every play.
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When Winovich made his way to Michigan, he was originally expected to play outside linebacker. He was redshirted his freshman year (2014), then as a sophomore, he was moved to tight end by head coach Jim Harbaugh. He played in just two games as a redshirt freshman, picking up two tackles. His sophomore year presented a significant jump in playing time. Winovich appeared in all 13 games for the Wolverines, finishing the year with 15 solo tackles, 17 assisted tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, and one forced fumble.
As a junior, Winovich started all 13 games, and his production skyrocketed. He finished the 2017 season with 37 solo tackles, 36 assisted tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries, and one forced fumble. His numbers dipped slightly his senior year, but that is due to more focus being placed on him by the opposing team. He finished 2018 with 33 solo tackles, 36 assisted tackles, 17 tackles for loss, five sacks, one pass defended, and one fumble recovery. Winovich was named to the AP All-American Third Team, and he was also selected 1st Team All Big-Ten by the players, coaches, and the media.
Winovich has all the tools to be an effective pass rusher in the NFL. He plays physical, aggressive, and he has an extremely high motor, which is huge for any athlete. He has a very quick first step, he is strong in pursuit and takes good angles, he does anything asked of him, and when he makes a tackle, the man he is taking down knows it. He does have some things to work on though; one area that could be a problem is his feet getting out in front of his hands at times. Defensive lineman, especially edge pass rushers, need to lead with and execute using their hands, and when their feet get ahead of them, they are done on that play. That is an area that can be coached up and fixed with repetition.
Winovich appears to be the perfect Patriot; talented, high motor, team guy, but he is far from perfect. His flaws can be fixed, which is why New England selected him. His strengths are going to give him a chance to be a very good NFL player, assuming he uses them to fix his weaknesses. Winovich will have a chance to see significant playing time in 2019 because of the departure of Trey Flowers. The question is- can he handle it? Bill Belichick believes he can.