The mandatory phase of the New England Patriots’ offseason workouts is over – at least until training camp starts in late July – and we have re-entered the quieter parts of the NFL calendar.
However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop. After all, by late August, each team has to start making its roster cuts. Until then, players have to secure their spots on the team; they need to do their jobs (well) or someone else will.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots on the 2016 New England Patriots. Today, we’ll continue the series with defensive tackle Anthony Johnson.
Name: Anthony Johnson
Position: Defensive tackle
Jersey number: 65b
Size: 6’2, 295 lbs.
2015 review: After appearing in seven games his rookie season with the Miami Dolphins – before being placed on season-ending injured reserve –, Johnson was unable to make the team’s 2015 roster. The Dolphins cut the LSU product early September and he was without a team the next two months.
In November, the Washington Redskins signed Johnson to their practice squad. He spent the rest of the season in Washington and signed a reserve/futures contract in January. However, the team opted to release him in May, when it began signing undrafted rookies.
One week after his release, the Patriots signed Johnson to a one-year, $525,000 contract.
2016 preview: The Patriots remodeled their defensive tackle position this offseason. Anthony Johnson has been a part of this process but now faces a lot of competition for a spot on New England’s 53-man roster. After all, four of the nine defensive tackles the team currently has under contract are either roster locks or close to that.
The final position depth chart will likely consist of Malcom Brown, Terrance Knighton, Alan Branch and rookie Vincent Valentine. The question is, can Johnson earn a spot alongside them? It depends on how many defensive tackles the Patriots’ coaching staff eventually plans to carry heading into the season.
If four is the final number, Johnson – barring injury – has a steep uphill battle ahead of him as it would be a major surprise to see him earn a roster spot over one of the aforementioned four players. If New England opts to keep five defensive tackles, Johnson’s chances do logically get better, especially if he can make the best out of his reps during training camp and preseason.
Still, as things currently stand, the 23-year is projected to be on the outside looking in no matter if the team keeps four or five defensive tackles on its roster. The main question therefore seems to be whether or not he will be able to stay ahead of Joe Vellano and Woodrow Hamilton and potentially earn a spot on the Patriots’ practice squad.
In 2014, Anthony Johnson was able to survive roster cuts despite playing at one of Miami’s deepest positions at the time. Two years later, he finds himself in a similar situation as New England has a lot of depth at the position. However, this time his chances of making the 53-man roster are worse.
Unless he is able to stand out in the upcoming weeks and push one of the more expensive players off the team, Johnson’s best bet of staying on the Patriots’ payroll is as a member of the team’s practice squad.