By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
It's important to remember that Bill Belichick remains something of a linebacker whisperer. And that's why you can't forget about Ja'Whaun Bentley.
After a torn pectoral muscle derailed his rookie season in 2018, Bentley struggled to get on the field in 2019 but through little fault of his own. The linebackers were just jammed with savvy veterans and elite athletes. Dont'a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Jamie Collins were a hard trio to crack.
The dynamics are different now. Hightower remains the big man on campus at the position, but Bentley now has a huge opportunity to not only make an impact on the field but begin to impart the leadership qualities that convinced Bill to draft him in the first place.
But the guy knew his place for the first couple of years. Mouth shut, head down, body pummeled to a pulp in practice. Bentley can see the transition happening now that he's spent two seasons as an understudy.
"I would say that I’ve always taken the approach, in order for you to be a great leader you have to first be a great follower," said Bentley, who at Purdue was the first three-year captain in history. "Being in college, you have the opportunity to learn when you get there. You don’t know everything, so you have to go in there and kind of learn the ropes a little bit and take in as much advice and leadership qualities from those veterans.
"It’s the same thing in the pros. You have to find the right guys to surround yourself with, the older guys and the veterans, and pick their brain and be a great follower, see the things that they teach and the things that they emphasize. In turn, you’ll be able to build your qualities and your character traits that you want to use and add it to your repertoire of leading personality traits."
With the drafting of Michigan's Josh Uche in the second round and Alabama's Anfernee Jennings in the third round of the 2020 draft, the Patriots' linebacker room is undergoing a real makeover. Bentley is at the crossroads of that transformation. He may yet become a key figure in the Patriots' search for the next generation of leaders.
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 [email protected].