Training camp has opened and the season is fast approaching. The 2018 Patriot draft class has some good, some bad and some incompletes. This sophomore snapshot gets you caught up ready for your first preseason game.
The biggest surprise from the rookie draft picks came from an undrafted defensive back! A day two talent that fell due to off the field questions and some poor testing shined for the Patriots. As part of the top rotation in the backfield he has impressed with his speed and physicality, even against bigger wide receivers and tight ends. His aggressiveness caught up to him and he began acquiring penalties in the playoffs, and his usage began to dip. Has a real shot at taking the next step and being the number two option at cornerback, opposite Gilmore on game day.
When training camp broke in 2018, the defense looked like it had a new wrecking force playing at linebacker. In the first three games he amassed more statistics than most rookie linebackers do all season. He collected a single interception, pass defensed, tackle for loss, and a QB hit. Bentley also had nine solo tackles and five assisted tackles. A torn biceps landed him on injured reserve prior to week 4, otherwise the Bentley legend could have grown. He goes into 2019 being the top option behind Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy. While he does have some competition from Elandon Roberts and reacquired Jamie Collins, he easily could never leave the field.
What does a team do when a pro bowl defensive end leaves in free agency? You have his replacement ready to go the next year. Most expect Dietrich Wise to step in take the next step. I for one am jumping on the Trent Harris train for this. His impressive preseason in pressuring the quarterback, and season long stint on the practice squad, will prepare him for a bigger role on the defense for the 2019 campaign. Don’t be surprised when you hear his name called again and again this year. The time is ripe for the next great defender on the Patriots.
What does it mean when a team gives a prospect every opportunity to get on the field and make an impact and he can’t even be active for a game? I don’t know either, but it’s not good. Numerous reasons conspired against the highly-touted second round pick. A hamstring injury landed him on the injured reserve at the beginning of the season. But unlike most of his fellow rookies, the Patriots used one of its IR activation spots on him. He could never crack the game day roster the rest of the season due to a healthy secondary that was playing well. With that disappointment behind him he needs to be ready and compete for playing time. Cutting Dawson prior to opening day is unlikely, anything else can happen. Change of scenery trade, another IR stint, or being inactive all season will be extremely negative to his career path. No one wants to see another Ras-I Dowling or Cyrus Jones happen.
I debated placing Michel in the incomplete. He ultimately lands in the bad due to the chronic nature of his health problems and the competitiveness of his position. Michel had a very good rookie year and a perfect postseason run on the way to a Super Bowl ring. How could six regular season touchdowns, six postseason touchdowns and over 1250 rushing yards land him in the bad? Two knee surgeries, two knee injuries and multiple missed games and practices will do it. The Patriots also drafted a potential backup/replacement in Damien Harris. This is in addition to returning running backs in Rex Burkhead and James White. All of this paints a clouded picture of the second year back’s future.
Oh Danny boy! I wish things could be turning out differently. When the Patriots drafted Jarett Stidham in the fourth round, Etling’s path to a regular season spot became nearly impossible. He spent his rookie season on the practice squad. The plan is to compete with veteran Brian Hoyer for the backup spot. Winning that battle is becoming imperative post-draft. The Patriots will likely carry three quarterbacks on the active roster this year, as stashing Stidham on the practice squad is very risky. This would make Etling’s potential spot on there that much more unlikely. I hope he can make it. If not we’ll always have the fourth preseason game.
The New England Patriots have had an uncharacteristic period of instability at the important left tackle position recently. In 2017 Nate Solder was the starter, in 2018 it was Trent Brown. There will be a different player protecting Tom Brady’s blind side in 2019. The favorite is the second year player from Georgia. This could be more of a rocky transition than with Brown. Wynn is coming off one of the worst injuries in football. The torn Achilles he suffered in the second preseason game is reportedly healed as he avoided the PUP list to open camp. Is he suitable for the left tackle position in the NFL? As long as Tom Brady is back there and Dante Scarnecchia is teaching the group they will be ready on game day.
The Injury Squad
When you have a team that finishes the season as the second seed and dominates the playoffs enroute to a third Super Bowl appearance in four years you could expect some contribution from its rookies. This is a team that saw five of its rookie picks hit the IR before the season began. Included were Braxton Berrios, Christian Sam and Ryan Izzo. All are expected to hit the ground running and make some noise if they want to secure their roster spots this season, and the years to come.
Thank you for reading this article written by Andrew Lykins. You can find the rest of my work over at http://bostonsportsextra.com/author/@alykins32
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All statistics were found at https://www.pro-football-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.