Deatrich Wise Jr. channels Joel Embiid, but father knows best

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Deatrich Wise Jr. has some Joel Embiid in him -- and a lot of Deatrich Wise Sr.

The New England Patriots defensive end saw his production spike at the end of the regular season, which is unusual for a rookie. Instead of staggering to the finish, Wise has become a legitimate pass-rushing threat in the sub package -- and that could make him an X factor against elusive Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota in Saturday night's divisional playoff game.

Asked to explain his late-season kick, Wise said, "Dedication and trusting the process" -- a line straight from the Embiid quote book.

Wise credited his coaches and teammates for helping him endure the grind of a long season, but a lot of it stems from self-motivation. Even though he's a rookie, Deatrich is wise beyond his years. Each day, he tries to be the first player in the locker room, sometimes arriving at 5:30 a.m.

That, he said, comes from his dad, a former professional football player.

"I owe that to my father," Wise said. "He always taught me about work ethic. My mom taught me how to work smarter, and my dad taught me how to work, period."

The elder Wise was chosen by the Seattle Seahawks (No. 242 overall) in the 1988 draft, but he never played in a game with the Seahawks or, later, the New Orleans Saints. He played in the CFL and the Arena League before giving it up to coach. He devoted his life to training his sons, which meant two workouts a day -- before school and after school. This started when young Deatrich was in the third grade.

The Patriots drafted the younger Wise in the fourth round out of Arkansas. They haven't regretted it for a second. He has played in every game (51.3 percent of the defensive snaps), compiling five sacks, 19 quarterback hits and 26 tackles. He stands 6-foot-5, weighs 271 pounds and has a knack for rushing the passer -- and it's hard to find guys like that.

"Deatrich, you can't outwork him," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "The kid's here early, he stays late, he's always working -- working in the weight room, working in the film room."

"He's gotten better," Belichick continued. "He's a lot better than he was earlier in the year. He has a lot better use of his hands. He's a lot better at recognizing blocking schemes and reacting to plays that he didn't see a month or two months ago. He sees pretty well now. He sees very quickly. He plays them a lot better. But, really, I'd say the main thing with him is his work ethic. ... He's a good kid. Works hard."

Coming from the crusty and old-school Belichick, that qualifies as effusive praise, especially for a rookie.

On Saturday night, Belichick & Co. will count on Wise to contain Mariota, who has eight scrambles for 79 yards in the past two games. It will take discipline for the edge rushers to pressure the Titans signal-caller while leaving no escape routes. If Mariota gets outside the pocket, it'll give the Titans a puncher's chance of upsetting the heavily favored Patriots.

"He's a very fluid, a very smooth type of quarterback," Wise said of Mariota. "With his speed and his arm, he's a threat. Ultimately, we have to keep him in the pocket and mess up his throwing lanes. It'll take a lot of work."

Work? Deatrich is wise to that.