Rookies Looking Ready to Step Up in New England Patriots Training Camp

Key defensive depth

The Patriots drafted five defensive players in this year’s draft, including three in the draft’s first three rounds. While the Patriots should not have to rely on them as heavily as their rookie pass-catchers, their early draft picks are already looking to ready to step in and play when called upon.

Second-round pick Jamie Collins has worked mostly with the second-team defense in training camp, but he is a very intriguing player who should only get better as he continues to develop. As a rookie, expect him to contribute immediately as a situational player on passing downs.

Collins has the potential to be a major asset to the Patriots as a pass defender. He can line up anywhere from edge rusher to middle linebacker, and can make an impact as both a pass-rusher and dropping back into pass coverage. His versatility is his greatest strength: the Patriots will be able to drop him into coverage from rush looks, which can create confusion for opponents. He gives the Patriots a linebacker with the size and athleticism to match up with tight ends off the line or running backs and H-backs out of the backfield.

The Patriots did have one rookie working consistently with the first-team defense on Saturday, that being third-round pick cornerback Logan Ryan. With neither Alfonzo Dennard nor Ras-I Dowling participating in the scrimmage, Ryan took the majority of outside cornerback reps with the starters opposite Aqib Talib.

In his test as a starter, Ryan performed well. He locked down on his opponent on the majority of plays, playing close to his opponent and displaying fluid hips. He occasionally let his receiver get open behind him, but he displayed his great instincts in knowing where to be on each play and when to break free from his man. He also showed his impressive ball skills, which he has in all three practices I’ve attended, with an end zone pass breakup versus Thompkins.

To be fair, Ryan didn’t get the full test of a starter Saturday. Ryan Mallett led the first-team offense in Tom Brady’s place for nearly the entire scrimmage, and Ryan was mostly matched up against Thompkins and Kamar Aiken. Nonetheless, he looked like a player who will be ready if called into action.

The Patriots’ other third-round pick from Rutgers, safety Duron Harmon, has also been coming along nicely in training camp. He has been working with the second-team defense, and has been better than expected in pass coverage. He has shown good range in covering ground in pass coverage, and has been making plays on the ball. He has come away with an interception in each of the past two practices I have attended.

Other rookies of note

Standing 6’5” and 255 pounds, seventh-round pick defensive end Michael Buchanan stands out on the field with his length. He has not made a huge impression in the three days I have attended training camp, but has worked mostly with the second-team defense and has high potential with his combination of size and athleticism. He is competing for a roster spot with Jermaine Cunningham, Marcus Benard and Jake Bequette among others, but he should be in good position to make the team.

If any of the Patriots’ rookie draft picks are squarely on the bubble, it would be seventh-round pick linebacker Steve Beauharnais. Beauharnais has not made a big impression in training camp, and is competing with Dane Fletcher and Jeff Tarpinian for what will likely be only one roster spot at linebacker. At this point, Beauharnais seems like a practice-squad candidate who is going to have to come on quickly to crack the 53-man roster.

The rest of the Patriots rookies are roster longshots, but one worth noting is punter Ryan Allen. The competition between him and incumbent punter Zoltan Mesko seemed relatively even on Saturday, with both punters getting consistent distance and hangtime.

Allen would truly have to stand out above Mesko to unseat him, and that didn’t seem to be the case on Saturday, the first practice I attended that included punting practice. That said, he has shown the skill to be a punter on an NFL team, and it would not come as a surprise if he is quickly picked up by another team following the Patriots’ final cuts.

In the previously mentioned youth movement of pass-catchers, undrafted rookie tight end Brandon Ford was expected to be a factor and compete for a roster spot. He has not made much of an impression or received significant reps in the three practices I have attended, however, and appears to be on the outside looking in while Sudfeld has shined.

Dan Hope is the chief editor of Buffalo Bills Draft.

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7 Responses to “Rookies Looking Ready to Step Up in New England Patriots Training Camp”

  1. CMO says:

    Dan – Loved this article. The more like this you can keep coming, will keep me sane until the season starts. This was the perfect read with my coffee.

  2. MacMahler says:

    Great article by Dan Hope. There is some interesting information about both Ryan and Harmon not found elsewhere. Given that the rookie WR’s are being given so many chances, it’s certainly looks like Dobson, Boyce, and Thompkins will make the roster. It’s an exciting change of pace for the Pats. They seem to be incorporating the potential for more big plays, and this goes for Sudfeld in the rookie class as well, and Vereen and Washington in the veteran department. If the OL can give Brady enough time throughout the regular season and (hopefully) the playoffs, “throwing to the open man” should evolve into “open men”.
    Thought I would give out a roster guess reflecting the possible emergence of the above rookies and a few more.

  3. MacMahler says:

    Blount, Rivera, Jenkins last cuts-maybe they come back later depending on injuries.

  4. MacMahler says:

    QB (3) Brady, Mallett, Tebow
    RB (4) Vereen, Ridley, Washington, Bolden
    WR (6) Amendola, Boyce, Thompkins, Slater, Dobson, Aiken (Edelman on PUP for 6 games)
    TE (3) Sudfeld, Fells, Hoomanawanui (Gronk on PUP for 6 games)
    C (2) Wendell, Kline
    G (4) Mankins, Cannon, Connolly, Green
    T (3) Vollmer, Solder, Svitek
    DE (5) Jones, Ninkovich, Francis, Benard, Buchanan
    DT (4) Wilfork, Kelly, Forston, Vellano (Armstead on PUP)
    ILB(3) Spikes, Fletcher, Koutouvides
    OLB(3) Mayo, Hightower, Collins
    CB (5) Talib, Dennard, Arrington, Ryan, Dowling
    SS (2) Wilson, Wilson
    FS (3) McCourty, Gregory, Harmon
    ST (3) Gostkowski, Aiken, Mesko
    Practice Squad: Davis, Zusevics, Sims, Grissom, Beauharnais, C McDonald, Harrison, Winn

    • Freemanator says:

      I like the prediction.
      Edelman can’t be on the PUP any more, as he was taken off, so I’d look for Aiken to slide out at WR, unless he steps it up some more.
      I think Beauharnais will be tough to sneak onto the PS, so if we keep 6 backers, I’d expect him to beat out Koutovides, who really only offers ST value, and no upside.

      I’d also expect us to keep one less lineman (probably Kline), and hopefully only go two deep at QB. Feel that Tebow probably wouldn’t get picked up if waived, and so we could bring him back next year.

      This would give two extra spots, one I’d give to Bequette, to see what he can do, and the other to either a fourth TE (Ballard) or a 7th WR (Aiken).

      • MacMahler says:

        You’re right about Edelman of course. I was thinking that since they are giving Tebow so much time to do a few different things that they have a package of ideas for him developmentally. But yeah, it would make sense to have that roster spot.

        Due to the WR group’s recent injury history as a whole, it would be good to have Aiken there.

        With Kline, I was concerned about the OL being a little thin with Nick McDonald not coming back. (And it was probably impossible, but it would have been great to have
        Donald Thomas still on the team). With Connolly’s situation being unpredictable, and the possibility for wear and tear by playoff time, there’s the question of a backup center and/or guard.

        I agree about Beauharnais also, but am wondering about ST’s if Cole is not on the team. Besides Slater, Koutivides has the most ST experience.

        • Breazy says:

          Ballard is the only healthy TE on the roster who has started a Superbowl. I don’t know how close to 100% he is, but his track record has to count for something. I think Gronk is PUP for 6 weeks and they keep 5 TE.

          I think Tebow is primarily on the roster to simulate opposing option quarterbacks in practice, and for trick plays.

          Special Teamers still need to be viable 3rd string at something for depth. Bill B demands versatility and lots of spare parts. That said, I don’t know which of the ex-Scarlet Knights step up and which don’t.

          Defensive End is the hardest prediction, I think because after Ninko and Jones, what we see on the field doesn’t give us enough clues, and the stuff we don’t see may well be what the coaches decide on.

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