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Patriots' Josh Uche not getting 'big-headed' after breakout year: 'It's not like I just figured it out'

As a whole, the New England Patriots' 2022 season was a disappointment.

Patriots linebacker Josh Uche's season was not, however. Nonetheless, Uche is not resting upon his individual success from a season ago, but looking to build upon it.

"Last year is last year. Can't cash in on much from last year," Uche said Thursday, via’s Chris Mason. "It's a new season. Just focusing on the next opponent, just improving. It's a new season. New plays need to be made, new steps need to be taken. Just trying to forget last year, just build and become the best football player I can be."

Though the 24-year-old might want to walk back his thoughts on cashing in on his 2022 campaign as he heads into the final year of his rookie deal, Uche's staying grounded and has no call for a larger helmet size after a breakout showing.

"I just feel like if you get so big-headed on what you did in the past, you're going to trip up trying to get where you want to go," Uche said. "I try to leave that where it's at and understand this is a new slate. This is a new season and there's new opportunities. If I'm worried about the past, then I can't capitalize on the future."

In 2022, Uche became a terror off the edge and teamed up with Matthew Judon to become one of the better and perhaps more underrated pass-rushing duos in the league.

Career-highs made up Uche's third-season stat line: 11.5 sacks, 27 tackles, 14 QB hits, nine tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.

He was a wreaker of havoc from Week 8 through Week 15, tallying all 11.5 of his sacks in those eight games, including a pair of three-sack outings.

The 2020 NFL Draft second-round selection out of Michigan will need to prove last season -- or in particular those eight games -- wasn't an aberration but a sign of things to come.

At least on Thursday, Uche was presenting the right approach.

"I know I'm not the oldest guy in the room," he said. "I'm 24. So it was just a learning experience.

"Maturing, having mature guys in the locker room, mature leaders. I was able to learn from them. Eventually, it all came together and it's still coming together. It's not like I just figured it out. It's a continuous process."

New England fell short of the playoffs in 2022, sputtering to an 8-9 record despite boasting a defense that ranked 11th in points allowed and eighth in yards. A good deal of the Patriots' defensive success was bolstered by Uche's coming-out party. He's not celebrating last year, though. He's looking for more improvement and sustained excellence -- which will be needed for him to become a Patriots mainstay and for New England to return to the postseason.

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