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Rob Gronkowski on Jamie Collins: 'He's a freak'

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With all the attention heaped on Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo and the Patriots offense, it's easy to ignore what's happening across the line of scrimmage.

New England's defense marches into the season with plenty of questions surrounding a depleted secondary. There's little doubt, though, about the play of third-year linebacker Jamie Collins.

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"He's a freak," Rob Gronkowski said of Collins, per Phil Perry of CSN New England. "He's fast, he's long and he's strong. He plays the game of football how it should be. He knows how to hit, he knows how to cover. He's an overall great player so it's great going against guys like him. It makes you compete and gets you better."

Gronk's praise came after a Sunday practice that saw Collins blow up run plays and break up a pass from Brady to tight end Scott Chandler that "led to a spirited back-and-forth between the quarterback and Patriots defensive coaches," per Perry.

Ranked last season as the league's sixth-best run-stopper at his position, per Pro Football Focus, Collins also graded out as the NFL's third best inside linebacker behind Luke Kuechly and fellow Patriots 'backer Dont'a Hightower.

We swung and missed on a handful of Making the Leap candidates last season, but not on the unusually versatile Collins, who also thrived against the pass. As Gregg Rosenthal noted last summer, Collins "is a cornerback trapped in a 250-pound body. While most linebackers are forced into pass coverage duties, Collins looks at home on an island."

Boston Herald beat writer Jeff Howe called Collins a "modern day super freak," saying: "Through four training camp practices, Collins has likely been the best defensive player." With Darrelle Revis back in Gotham, that's no surprise, and we expect Collins to lead the way for New England all season.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast discusses Tom Brady's lawsuit and debates which veteran players are most likely to be cut.

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