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New England Patriots blitz: Jamie Collins focused on becoming a star

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Last year ended on a sour note for the New England Patriots as the team lost convincingly in the AFC Championship Game to the Denver Broncos. One of the bright spots, however, was the emergence of rookie linebacker Jamie Collins towards the tail end of the season. Expectations wasn't high for the second-round pick, but entering his second season, Collins is expected to shine. The second-year player addressed those expectations on Thursday after organized team activities.

At 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, Jamie Collins is an athletic freak. He showed that athleticism in the divisional playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts. His quickness and feel for the game was demonstrated in a breakout performance that had the Patriots organization and their fans salivating. He played so well at key moments that his expectations has grown entering his second year. With a year experience under his belt and an increased understanding of the playbook, Collins believes he can take it to another level this season.

The product of Southern Mississippi told reporters, "I know a lot more. [I'm] playing faster. Last year had to learn everything. now I know most of it. I'm playing a little faster." Collins showed to be most effective covering short down situations and passing the rusher. With a sack and interception against Andrew Luck and the Colts, the young linebacker showed exactly why coach Bill Belichick took a shot at Collins in the early second round in the 2013 draft.

And it's not just the coaches who are praising Collins, his teammates are impressed as well. Dont'a Hightower, another young linebacker who expects to make a giant leap this year, applauded Collins for his maturity and his ability to help the team when they needed him most.

"It was a little bit harder losing Mayo and all those guys," said Hightower. "Before that it was a lot more fluid. And with Jamie I feel like he's blossomed a lot sooner than anybody. I feel like he was a lot more mature than some people are in their third year. him coming in and learning the way he did his first year, you couldn't tell that he wasn't a three- or a four -year player. He's helping out a lot, he's getting the younger guys in there, watching film, and getting everything situated with them. Just like Mayo said: We have old souls. We mature a lot faster."

If Collins is indeed more faster, he will be a force in the Patriots' defense, especially if his maturity level has risen as well. Barring injury, making the transition as one of the team's stars shouldn't be hard to accomplish for a play with the physical ability to impact an entire game with just one play. The New England Patriots look like they have themselves a special player.

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