Today, the New England Patriots finally return to the practice fields to kick off their 2016 training camp. The battles for spots on the team officially enter the next round and 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 rookie guard Ted Karras.
Name: Ted Karras
Jersey number: 75
Size: 6’4, 305 lbs.
2015 review: After redshirting his 2011 junior year, Karras started 43 games over the next four seasons at Illinois. In 2015, he started all 12 of the Fighting Illini's games at right guard – the first time he played every game since 2012 – and played 88.6% of the team's offensive snaps.
Prior to the season, Karras earned his bachelor degree in communication. After his senior year, the team captain was voted third-team All-Big 10 by the media and was an honorable All-Big 10 mentioned by the conference's coaches.
As a result of his consistent performance not only in 2015 but throughout his college career, the Patriots selected Karras in the sixth round of this year's draft (pick #221).
2016 preview: While the Patriots' interior offensive line struggled in 2015, the team has addressed the position over the course of the offseason. As a consequence, Karras now finds himself in a tough battle for practice reps, playing time and subsequently a spot on the roster or practice squad.
While only one interior lineman on the roster – third round rookie Joe Thuney – can be considered a lock to make the team, Karras has to beat out at least one of the team’s returning starters or offseason acquisition and former first round draft pick Jonathan Cooper. If he can quickly adapt to life in the NFL and playing in New England's offense, he has a chance to do that.
Karras still needs to have a solid training camp to earn a spot, though. Given his status as a late-round draft pick and the quality and depth of his competition, it would not be a surprise to see Karras left off the 53-man roster in September. However, he looks like a solid option to potentially earn a spot on the Patriots’ practice squad.
As of right now, Ted Karras projects to be a victim of the numbers game at guard. Unless he exceeds expectations with a terrific training camp or one of the players above him on the depth chart gets either injured or does not come off PUP soon (looking your way, Shaq Mason and Tre' Jackson), Karras’ most likely is a practice squad candidate.