Jamie Collins embodies the recent shift in the Patriots' front-seven philosophy towards smaller, but quicker, players in response towards the league's increasing emphasis on passing.
Brimming with athleticism, Collins stands in contrast to the typically reliable, but far-from-flashy prototypical Patriots linebacker, such as Tedy Bruschi or Jerod Mayo.
If Collins starts, it may be because he benefits from the Patriots' potential shift back to a 3-4 base defense. There is not much depth in the interior line behind stalwart Vince Wilfork, especially given Armond Armstead's unexpected illness.
It's clear the Patriots' personnel is currently better suited to play the 3-4, which shouldn't be that huge of an adjustment given the team's hybrid concepts anyways.
Regardless of the base defense, Collins' greatest value will come in sub packages and passing downs. Though Mayo will play nearly every snap, the Patriots have not had a reliable linebacker to pair with him on passing downs.
Last season, in Week 10 against the Bills, Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller continually torched Dont'a Hightower and Brandon Spikes for a combined eight receptions and 96 receiving yards.
In 2013, the Patriots will have to face running backs like Spiller, Darren Sproles and Ray Rice. Fortunately, Collins' greatest strength is playing in space where he can utilize his uncommon athleticism quite impressively.
If he can help neutralize that aspect of the opposing passing game, that would go a long ways towards the Patriots' perpetual struggles to improve their abysmal third-down defense.
Considering the Pats lined up in their sub package about 57 percent of the time last season, according to Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston, Collins will not go unused even if he doesn't play much in the base package. In that sense, he may end up a lot like Kyle Arrington, a cornerback who technically isn't designated as a "starter," but whose snap counts signify an important role nonetheless.