By CBSBoston.com Staff

BOSTON (CBS) — Josh Uche did not play much during his rookie season with the Patriots. He’s ready to do much bigger things 2021.

In a way, we’re about to be treated to a “no more Mr. Nice Guy” kind of attitude when the second-year linebacker hits the field — and opposing quarterbacks — for New England.

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“My Pop Warner coach in Florida said that it’s OK to be a nice guy, but when you step on the field you have to flip the switch and develop a mean streak,” Uche said during his Friday Zoom session. “And that’s the mentality I’ve taken.”

Uche played in just six games as a rookie and only 18 percent of New England’s defensive snaps. A notorious pass rusher during his college days as a Michigan man, he got to an opposing quarterback only once in his first NFL season. That his lone sack as a rookie came against Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was pretty impressive, as Uche showed his quick burst at the line to get to the elusive Jackson in New England’s Week 10 win.

Leading up to that week, Uche did a lot of work on the Patriots scout team, doing his best to mimic then-Ravens pass rusher Matt Judon. The two are now teammates, giving Uche another savvy veteran to learn from as he looks to add to his own set of tricks. And on Thursday, veteran linebacker Dont’a Hightower said that Uche reminded him a lot of Judon, a comparison that meant a lot to the New England up-and-comer.

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“That’s a great comparison because Judon is probably one of the best pass rushers I’ve been around. I just try to emulate some things he does to his level and his status,” Uche said during his Friday afternoon Zoom session. “It’s definitely great to have a player you aspire to be on your team and in your room, someone who kind of lays out a road map of how to go about things as a professional.

“I remember playing the Ravens last year and being on the scout team. We talked about Judon being a chess piece — a versatile guy who can bring a lot to the defense,” Uche continued. “Since then I’ve watched a lot of his game and saw just how fluid of a pass rusher he is.”

Uche has been taking a little something from each of his teammates, as he hopes to become a core piece of the New England defense for years to come.

“Just having guys like [Kyle] Van Noy, Judon, Hightower, Chase [Winovich], Ronnie [Perkins], Anfernee [Jennings], you can learn something from each of those guys every day. Me, the way I look at things, I try to look at what everyone does and implement that into my game,” said Uche. “To have such a high level and high amount of guys in the room, I allows me to cherry pick and just add to my game.”

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The Patriots will have a much different Josh Uche in 2021, one that is ready to show off everything that he’s learned since coming into the league — and the mean streak that he is ready to unleash.

CBSBoston.com Staff