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New England Patriots

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

There’s a new piece of content out there onĀ ESPN. It’s critical of the Patriots. That will be a negative amount of shocking to a lot of fans. In this particular case, however, ESPN is not focusing on the 41-year-old quarterback or the 66-year-old head coach. It’s all about the players under 25 – a group that ESPN ranked 32nd, dead-last in the league.

It hurts the Patriots’ case that Trey Flowers and Shaq Mason will turn 25 later this month, just before the Sept. 6 cutoff date. But Deatrich Wise, who will be 24 years old for the entire 2018 season, fits the bill. And the 2017 fourth-round pick is as confident as any player on the New England roster that he’ll ultimately prove critics like ESPN wrong.

The Patriots defensive end, who has drawn the highest of praise from Bill Belichick during training camp, could get his first chance to show ESPN who they may have overlooked in Thursday’s preseason opener against the Washington Redskins at Gillette Stadium. He also may not play at all – which would be an even better sign for the second-year pass rusher, because it could indicate that he’s viewed as a starter. He’s gotten those kinds of reps at recent practices, especially as Flowers appears to be working through an injury on the rehab field.

Wise’s reps, like everyone across the league so far, have come entirely against his own offensive line. He’s hungry to finally look across the field at someone else.

“I’m very excited going into this game, finally being able to hit somebody else other than my teammates,” Wise said on Wednesday. “One step closer to the regular season. I’m very excited.”

FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 13: Deatrich Wise of the New England Patriots celebrates a sack alongside Adam Butler and Trey Flowers in the first quarter of the AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBOROUGH, MA – JANUARY 13: Deatrich Wise of the New England Patriots celebrates a sack alongside Adam Butler and Trey Flowers in the first quarter of the AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Thursday represents Wise’s first opportunity to “finish rushes and hit quarterbacks,” which the Patriots obviously can’t do in any practices. He’s already finished plenty of rushes without the hits in camp, though; he’s impressed as much as any defender on the Patriots roster in the first three weeks.

Wise is more comfortable going into his second preseason now that he knows what to expect. He’s also more confident in his ability to process the mental aspect of the game, which can be a challenge for any rookie.

“That’s something that I wanted to improve on, make sure I knew the playbook make sure I know the grand scheme of things,” Wise said. “So that I’m comfortable enough to go out there and react.”

Wise, who played all over the line at Arkansas and has been used in a variety of ways with the Patriots, certainly drew interest from Belichick with that versatility. Never mind his impressive size (6-foot-5, 275 pounds) and speed for such a large human. The expectation is that he’ll move all over the place when given the opportunity to play.

Whether or not that first chance comes on Thursday, Wise is itching to get out there and do what he really enjoys. And there’s a good chance he shows that the Patriots’ perceived lack of high-end talent under 25 may be a bit overplayed.

“What’s fun for me is winning games and sacking quarterbacks,” he said. “That’s what I love to do.”

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.