FOXBOROUGH — Ja’Whaun Bentley collects tackles like it’s nobody’s business.
Matthew Judon would like to bring it to everybody’s attention.
Bentley has quietly racked up a Patriots-leading 115 tackles this season. As Judon said recently, “Bent’s been balling.”
Judon believes Bentley — and the entire New England linebacking corps, for that matter — is underrated, and he admires the way they go about their business.
“For the whole year, they’ve been very consistent,” Judon said recently. “They’ve been very good. They just don’t get talked about the way they should, and they don’t care.
“I think that’s one good thing about our linebacking group, they just don’t care. They just come to work, and they continue to play. I take my hat off to them. A lot of respect.”
Judon, by virtue of his consistent dominance (28 sacks over the last two seasons), gets plenty of attention on the field and in print. He wishes Bentley, the defense’s beacon, would as well.
“It’s hard playing this game at a high level, and you don’t ever hear anybody say your name, you don’t hear anybody give you the credit you deserve, and then for you to just stay consistent all year,” Judon said. “And I think everybody in that linebacker group does it.”
Linebackers coach Jerod Mayo is in lockstep with Judon when it comes to Bentley’s value.
“Bentley is probably one of the most underrated linebackers in the league,” Mayo said. “I’m not sure why he doesn’t get much publicity, but he’s one of the best backers in the league.”
Bill Belichick recently said he was “so glad” the Patriots were able to re-sign Bentley in the offseason, when the 26-year-old signed a two-year, $6 million pact.
“He’s been great on and off the field,” said Belichick, who lauded Bentley for his ability to get the front seven pieces in place and make split-second adjustments based on his presnap reads.
“Very good communicator, which is important in the role that he plays,” said the coach. “Middle linebacker and free safety, and quarterback, center, personal protector on the punt team, they’re all high-level communication positions, and he does a great job of that.
“Very unselfish player. Does what’s best for the defense, what’s best for the team, not what’s best for him.”
Similar to the Bills, the Patriots postponed media availabilities Wednesday — Belichick and several players were scheduled to talk with reporters — but did hold a sweats-and-shells practice.
Rookie cornerback/returner/receiver Marcus Jones and tight end Jonnu Smith were the only players on the 53-man roster not spotted during the window reporters were allowed to watch. Both are recovering from concussions and missed last Sunday’s win over the Dolphins.
Receiver DeVante Parker, who suffered a concussion Dec. 12 against the Cardinals, returned to practice. Parker, who is averaging 18.4 yards per catch, has missed the last three games.
Parker was listed as limited, as was receiver Jakobi Meyers (shoulder) and cornerbacks Jonathan Jones (chest) and Jalen Mills (groin).
Kyle Dugger’s game-changing pick-6 against the Dolphins earned the third-year safety AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. It was Dugger’s third touchdown of the season. He is third on the team with 64 tackles and also has 3 interceptions, 8 passes defensed, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. “I don’t know about you guys, but that’s my favorite player,” Myles Bryant quipped after the win over Miami … A couple of leftover nuggets from Sunday: Jonathan Jones’s body control on his fourth-quarter interception was incredible. To catch a deflected pass and get both feet down inbounds was most impressive … If you didn’t catch Trent Brown’s game-day outfit, it’s worth checking out … No matter what decision he makes regarding his playing future, Matthew Slater said he is a permanent New Englander. “The Slaters will be here,” he beamed … Reminder: The Patriots can clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Bills or losses by the Dolphins, Steelers, and Titans … Patriots owner Robert Kraft donated $18,003 to Damar Hamlin’s toy-drive fund. In Jewish culture, 18 symbolizes “life,” while the 3 is for Hamlin’s uniform number.