Last Eight In: Examining the Patriots Practice Squad

Offensive lineman Josh Kline caught the eye of Bill Belichick this summer. And he wasn’t the only bubble player to do so. (Photo: Oliver Thomas)

NEPD Staff Writer: Oliver Thomas

The “Turk” was busy between the Aug. 28 and Aug. 31 roster cutdown deadlines, as dozens of then-New England Patriots were asked to bring their playbooks to head coach Bill Belichick.

Yet while many of whom cleaned out their lockers and saw their nameplates removed, not every Patriots cut packed up and departed from Foxborough, Mass.

Six of whom stayed around, and another two joined them on Patriots practice squad – an eight-man roster filled with non-vested players practicing for an opportunity to play.

Here’s how they earned their spots.

Quentin Sims, Wide Receiver

After two seasons and no catches as a member of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, wide receiver Quentin Sims transitioned to FCS football at Tennessee-Martin. The move gave Quentin Sims a chance for extended playing time. The 6’3”, 202-pounder made the most of it. As a senior in 2012, Sims notched 86 receptions for 1,092 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Standout production wasn’t enough to get the 23-year-old drafted come April. Instead, he was invited to rookie minicamp with the Atlanta Falcons before being signed by the Patriots on July 19.

When Patriots training camp opened, Sims looked like a long shot. His first day on the fields behind Gillette Stadium was a quiet one. He didn’t stick out and dropped a pass. Although as the practices picked up, so did Sims. Yet with a slew of receivers in the fold, that progression did not translate to receptions early on in the preseason, as he was held catchless through the first two contests.

Then, between the Aug. 22 game against the Detroit Lions and the Aug. 29 game against the New York Giants, Sims amassed four receptions on six targets. He capped off the exhibition schedule with a three-catch, team-leading 72 yard performance. In that tilt, Sims also got into the end zone for two touchdowns by way of cut-quarterback Tim Tebow.

Ending the preseason on a high note wasn’t enough to keep Sims from being cut as the roster was trimmed to 53. When that transpired, there was a strong feeling that the big-bodied red-zone weapon could be claimed off waivers by another NFL team.

He wasn’t, and the Patriots signed him to the practice squad on Sept. 2.

Josh Kline, Offensive Guard

After a prolific high school wrestling career which netted a 45-1 record and a state title as a senior, Josh Kline focused solely on football at Kent State. It was there that Kline spent used his leverage and active wrestling hands to battle all over the Golden Flashes’ offensive line.

By the time his redshirt senior season drew to a close, Kline had seen reps at right guard, right tackle and on special teams, and was named to Phil Steele’s All-MAC team. Nevertheless, the three-year starter went undrafted this past spring before signing with New England.

While slightly undersized at 6’3”, 295 pounds, Kline’s versatility aided him through camp and the preseason. In four preseason contests, the 23-year-old logged a team-high 192 offensive snaps and graded out as the Patriots’ second-best run blocker behind All-Pro guard Logan Mankins, according to Pro Football Focus.

Kline survived both rounds of cuts by staying healthy and taking advantage of the attrition around him. Although as the waiver claims filed in, the eighth offensive linemen on New England’s roster became the ninth, then the 10th.

In turn, he was waived to make room on Sept. 2, only to be unclaimed and assigned to the practice squad two days later.

R.J. Dill, Offensive Tackle

Offensive tackle R.J. Dill was a three-year starter at the Maryland before transferring to Rutgers in order to fulfill a fifth year of NCAA eligibility. It was there that the 6’6”, 316-pound bookend started all 13 games at right tackle for the Scarlet Knights.

Through it all, the 23-year-old didn’t hear his name called in this year’s draft.

The Jacksonville Jaguars signed Dill as an undrafted rookie on April 28, but his preseason was limited to 41 snaps – 30 of which were pass-blocking situations, per Pro Football Focus. With a minimal workload, Dill was waived two days after the 53-man cut.

After Dill passed through waivers, the Patriots inked him to a deal on the practice squad. He is the sixth Rutgers product presently with New England.

Jordan Devey, Offensive Tackle

Jordan Devey’s road to the NFL circuit has been a less-travelled one. Suffering from Osgood-Schlatters while playing football in junior high, Devey did not play football in high school. Rather than playing on the offensive line, he played the tuba. His musical ability garnered him several scholarships – all of which he turned down for an opportunity to serve in a LDS church mission after graduation.

But as his knee problems dissipated, Devey decided to return to the football field, playing at Snow College in Ephraim, Ut. Devey was a powerful force at the two-year school, starting at both left guard and left tackle. In 2010, he was named the Badgers’ offensive player of the year.

At that juncture, Devey’s accomplishments caught the attention of the University of Memphis, and he transferred there. Over his two years with the Tigers, Devey was a prominent starter all over the line and didn’t miss a snap. Although once this past spring rolled around, Devey found himself in a deep pool of undrafted prospects.

The 6’6”, 317-pound blocker signed on with the Baltimore Ravens shortly thereafter. Devey played 80 downs for the Ravens before being cut on Aug. 31. Initially signed to Baltimore’s practice squad, Devey was cut once again on Sept. 2.

After New England’s first attempt to sign him to the practice squad fell through on Sept. 3, Devey was officially signed two days later.

Marcus Forston, Defensive Tackle

Following his 2008 campaign with the Miami Hurricanes, highly-recruited defensive tackle Marcus Forston was named to several freshman All-American teams. But injuries limited the 6’3”, 305-pound lineman to just three games during his sophomore and senior seasons in Miami.

Those durability concerns, as well as a drop off in performance, left Forston undrafted in 2012.

Forston joined the Patriots as a rookie free-agent that May. He managed to stick around New England for all of last season, bouncing between the practice squad and active roster, logging his only regular-season action versus the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 23.

Forston’s prior experience with the Patriots put him in good seating heading into 2013, especially given the shallow depth on the interior line. Consequently, Forston was considered a frontrunner to secure the Patriots’ third defensive tackle job. Those factors left Forston playing the most snaps of any Patriots D-tackle this preseason, where he totaled 10 tackles.

Yet with undrafted rookie Joe Vellano nipping at his heels, the Patriots opted to waive Forston in favor of the Terrapin during the Aug. 28 cuts. He was re-signed to the practice squad on Sept. 1.

Ja’Gared Davis, Linebacker

Linebacker Ja’Gared Davis started 26 contests over his final two seasons at Southern Methodist, accumulating 173 total tackles, 28 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks between 2011 and 12.

While he put together an impressive career with the Mustangs, Davis was not drafted this April. After some time in limbo, he was signed by the Houston Texans on May 10.

As Pro Football Focus notes, the 6’0”, 245-pounder played 34 snaps in pass coverage, 25 in run defense and five in pass rush this preseason with Houston. He had his hand in two stops over the course of the Texans’ four games. Once the preseason drew to a close, the Texans let Davis go.

Soon after, he landed in New England before being cut in the midst of the roster crunch. Despite the transaction, Davis didn’t venture too far away after he was waived by the Patriots. The 22-year-old joined New England’s practice squad on Sept. 1.

Kanorris Davis, Safety

Kanorris Davis was a Sun Belt Conference linebacker at the University of Troy, where he finished his career with 207 tackles and 10 forced fumbles. But by the time his football days with the Trojans were over, it was clear that Davis was about two inches too short and 20 pounds too light to play linebacker at the NFL level.

In light of that reality, the 5’10”, 207-pound Davis made the pre-draft transition to safety. He blew up his pro day, showcasing a 4.60 40-yard dash time, a 37-inch vertical jump, a 10’1” broad jump and 21 bench reps of 225 pounds. And with those physical measureables tacked onto his resume, Davis piqued the interest of the Patriots.

He was signed on May 3.

Although given the Patriots’ logjam at safety, Davis was hard pressed to make a name for himself in camp and the preseason. Yet via special teams, he did. Davis made two special teams stops this August, providing New England’s coaching staff with enough to believe he’d be worth retaining as a possible core special teamer.

The 23-year-old was waived by the Patriots on Aug. 31, only to be signed to the practice squad a day later.

Justin Green, Cornerback

After rushing for 88 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman running back in 2009, Justin Green made the move to cornerback two weeks before the University of Illinois season opener in 2010.

It paid off.

By the time his career with the Fighting Illini was all said and done, Green had started 29 games and collected 128 total tackles along with 13 pass deflections.

Although unlike safety Tavon Wilson and defensive end Michael Buchanan, Green did not go from Illinois alum to Patriots draft pick. The 5’11”, 195-pounder went undrafted before signing with the Patriots on July 21 – days before the start of training camp.

Seen as a long shot, Green did his best to dispel that stigma. He quickly acclimated into the secondary and jumped into the mix on special teams. He played the fifth-most defensive snaps of any Patriot this preseason and made seven tackles in the process.

Green was waived as part of the mandatory cutdown to 53 on Aug. 31. He was signed to the practice squad the next day.

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10 Responses to “Last Eight In: Examining the Patriots Practice Squad”

  1. steve earle says:

    I read today that Kline and Cave were signed to PS but no mention who was let go, anyone know?

    • MaineMan says:

      Musical chairs. Musical roster spots in this case.

      Kline was initially waived from the 53-man roster to make room for Cave and Barker claimed off waivers. A couple days later, Kline was signed to the PS (Tarpinian was released to make room).

      Cave was waived from the 53-man a couple days later. When Kline was promoted to the 53-man yesterday, Cave was signed to take Kline’s spot on the PS.

  2. Larry says:

    I am glad Sims made it through waivers and is on the PS……………..He may have real potential as a WR………….

  3. JMC says:

    No Quarterbacks-

  4. Trevor M. says:

    Who and when was the last player to come off the Patriots practice squad and make a significant impact on the team? or any practice squad for that matter?

    I am generally clueless on this. However, I never feel any excitement for anyone on the PS, ever. I hope someone gives me reason to be.

    • Dan says:

      BJGE was on it in 2008…generally those with more significant promise get claimed, so often you don’t get much from the PS, they stay on the 53.

    • Jack says:

      I went googling and came up with this link:

      A couple of practice squad players on the list who made good are Jason Peters and James Harrison. So, it is possible.

    • MaineMan says:

      Ryan Wendell was an on-again/off-again member of the Pats PS in 2008 and 2009. And there have been a couple others during BB’s tenure.

      The thing to be aware of, though, is that not every guy on the PS is “stashed” there primarily for his development potential or as an emergency reserve. The other major function of the PS is to form the basis of the scout teams that the starters practice against, and those guys are tasked with emulating the players and schemes of the Pats’ upcoming opponent.

      The offensive starters practice against a defensive scout team while the defensive starters practice against an offensive scout team. The reason for this is that you don’t really want, for example, your starters emulating/practicing somebody else’s schemes and plays. You want them perfecting their own stuff.

      There’s usually quite a bit of churn on the PS over the course of the season that serves this scout team function as the Pats will release a player in order to sign another who will emulate a specific player on the upcoming opponent’s squad in practices that week. And some guys get cut from the PS not only because they’re not developing, but because they’re not contributing very well on the scout team.

  5. Jack says:

    This is a nice recap of all the practice players the Pats have signed, the most comprehensive I’ve seen. If one or two of these guys can make the big team and make a contribution, it will be a plus.

    The player I saw the most of in pre-season was Green. I don’t think he’s terrible, but I don’t see him as NFL timbre at DB. I’m not sure about that, though.

    A guy I’d like to see more of is Kanorris Davis. With the forced fumbles and linebacker background, he profiles as a strong safety. The conversion projects are the ones that have the most upside, since they’re unknown quantities at the position.

    Josh Kline looks like he could contribute. Wrestlers usually make good o-linemen, well, that’s the prevailing wisdom. I like the good rating from Pro Football Focus, that can’t be a bad thing.

    Of course, the other guy I’ve seen a lot of is Quenton Sims. If the Pats hadn’t drafted “bust” Dobson (I know, it’s early, I’m just kidding), there might have been a spot on the roster for him. I went to a couple of training camp sessions and IIRC he had a few grabs. He’s big and could be a good X option. On Dobson, I do like his mad hands, however.

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