Patriots linebacker Mack Wilson showing why Browns sent him packing

Aug 19, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots linebacker Mack Wilson (30) warms up before a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 19, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots linebacker Mack Wilson (30) warms up before a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports /

It took four games to understand why the Cleveland Browns gave up on Mack Wilson. The New England Patriots believed they could rehabilitate Wilson, so they traded Chase Winovich for him.

Maybe it was Wilson’s Alabama pedigree that made Patriots head coach Bill Belichick trust Wilson was a better player than he had shown lately in Cleveland. Or maybe it was the belief that the player they saw as an NFL rookie was a better representation of what Wilson became.

After four games, the answer to both theories is no. Despite his desirable physical traits, Wilson is a liability to the Patriots defense.

The New England Patriots wanted to upgrade the linebacker position

The New England Patriots acquired Wilson with the intent to get faster at the linebacker position after the Buffalo Bills made Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins look slow in the AFC Wild Card loss.

On the field, Wilson’s speed is evident. He’s able to close in on ball carriers in an instant. Early on Wilson carved a role on passing downs, enabling him to trigger and go downhill the moment the ball is thrown to a receiver.

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The problem is Wilson is ineffective when it comes to finishing. According to Pro Football Reference, Wilson has five missed tackles through five games.

Five tackles doesn’t sound like much. Ja’Whaun Bentley is second on the New England Patriots with four missed tackles.

The difference is Bentley’s missed tackles percentage is 11.4. Wilson more than doubled that rate with 25 percent. The other big difference is their snap count. Bentley has played 243 snaps (76.4 percent) compared to Wilson’s 119 (37.4 percent).

A look at how New England Patriots linebacker Mack Wilson has been a disappointment

There are two ways to put this in perspective:

1. Wilson is missing about twice as many tackles than Bentley in less than half the snaps.

2. Bentley has 31 tackles to Wilson’s 15. If we swapped their percentages, Bentley would had missed about eight tackles while Wilson would had missed two.

Some of Wilson’s misses include:

A dump-off pass to Miami Dolphins RB Chase Edmonds on third-and-nine with 3:21 left in the fourth quarter should had been stopped short but resulted in a first down.

Pro Football Reference credited Wilson with missed three tackles against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It included RB Najee Harris shrugging off Wilson following a dump-off and gaining a first down.

A first quarter face mask penalty against Green Bay that gave the Packers a first down led to Wilson being benched in favor of Jahlani Tavai.

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It hasn’t been all bad for Wilson. He tipped a pass by Pittsburgh’s Mitchell Trubisky that led to an interception. But the bad just stands out. The coaching staff recognizes this, which is reflected in Wilson’s decreasing snap count. He had just 10 defensive snaps against Green Bay and nine against the Detroit Lions.

Wilson’s tackling problem becomes particularly concerning with the Cleveland Browns next on the schedule. They have the NFL’s best backfield tandem in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Few running backs breaks more tackles than Chubb.

The good news is Wilson usually plays on passing downs, so he shouldn’t be on the field with Chubb often. But the Browns will utilize Chubb as a receiver. He has averaged more than 20 receptions the previous four seasons.

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Last week the New England Patriots signed old friend Collins to the practice squad. This would be his fourth tour with New England after the Patriots declined to re-sign him after last season. It’s not a stretch to think he could take some of Wilson’s playing time on defense if Collins promoted to the active roster. It’s even possible that Collins replaces Wilson on the roster.

And on Wednesday the Patriots also added LB Calvin Munson to the practice squad. The 6-1 235-pounder has experience playing on New England’s special teams, which is telling after it appeared Wilson contributed to the Lions’ Maurice Alexander’s 47-yard kickoff return.

Collins lacks Wilson’s speed. But Collins misses far fewer tackles than Wilson does. But the speed doesn’t matter if the defender doesn’t make the play.