NASHVILLE — When he was in high school, Chase Winovich’s grandma came up with a rule for his football games. If he played hard and didn’t get hurt, she’d give him $5 and a chocolate bar, either Hershey’s or Sarris Candies.
When anyone who knows Winovich is asked to describe him, the words “high-energy” and “motor” are among the first ones offered. They were apt Saturday, as Winovich stood out in the second preseason game, a 22-17 Patriots victory over the Titans, for his relentlessness. Now we know where that comes from: To hear Winovich tell it, he’s playing every snap like there’s money and chocolate at stake.
“Today was just another day where I just went out there and I said you know what? I’ve got to play hard, I need that $5 and I need the candy,” Winovich said.
He filled the stat sheet, tallying five tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss, two quarterback hits, and a drawn holding penalty. He got in the game late in the first quarter in place of Shilique Calhoun, who left the game with an apparent injury. Derek Rivers had left the game with an injury only a few plays before and neither he nor Calhoun returned, so Winovich played significant snaps with the Patriots in need of edge rushers.
He toyed with Tennessee’s backup right tackle, Tyler Marz, who will see Winovich’s golden locks in his nightmares.
Over the course of one drive in the second quarter, Winovich zipped into the backfield to tackle running back Jeremy NcNichols for a loss of 3 yards, then buzzed quarterback Ryan Tannehill on second and 6, rushing him into an incomplete throw to receiver Taywan Taylor. Then, after a penalty on Duke Dawson gave the Titans a fresh set of downs, Winovich got in another hit on Tannehill that forced another incompletion.
Later on, after cornerback Ken Webster missed a tackle on Titans running back Akeem Hunt, Winovich chased — his name is apt — Hunt down from behind in the open field. Hunt ran a 4.36 40-yard dash at his pro day in 2015 and is fighting for a job. It was also 90 degrees outside.
“It’s weird,” Winovich said. “I really don’t know why I’m built like that, it might be a gift and a curse sometimes when it’s extremely hot and they’re just trying to run the ball away. I see the guy and in my head there’s a little part of me that’s like, ‘You know, you’re probably not going to make this play, man, maybe you should save it for the next one when it comes to you.’ But you’ll see me just sprinting and trying, trying to hit somebody or hit something.”
That effort has been noticed.
“Chase knows how to play. He plays hard, very good in pursuit. You see it in the kicking game, you see it on defense. He’s got a good motor,” said coach Bill Belichick.
“Very high-energy guy,” said teammate Deatrich Wise.
“He’s a great dude and has a motor like no other,” said fellow rookie Jarrett Stidham.
Winovich was strong in the first preseason game, too. He’s not supplanting Dont’a Hightower or Kyle Van Noy or Deatrich Wise anytime soon, but he looks like he could be ready to contribute meaningfully as a situational pass rusher. As Belichick mentioned and as Winovich noted, his value on special teams is also important.
“I’ve always gotten my start on special teams,” Winovich said. “Got it my freshman year of high school, got it my sophomore year of college, I assume here will be no different. I’ll probably get the majority of my reps early on on special teams and they’re crucial, every rep I get.”
If Winovich continues to stand out, he’ll get reps on defense as well, and he’ll play them with $5 bucks and a chocolate bar in mind.