The New England Patriots‘ 2016 training camp is underway. Players fight for practice repetitions and playing time to earn one of the 53 spots on the roster. They have until late August, when each team has to start making its roster cuts, to secure a role.
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 strong safety Vinnie Sunseri.
Name: Vinnie Sunseri
Position: Strong safety
Jersey number: 42
Size: 6’0, 210 lbs.
2015 review: Sunseri’s 2014 rookie campaign with the New Orleans Saints ended in November, when he was placed on injured reserve due to a broken arm. His 2015 season ended even more abruptly: Sunseri tore his ACL in the Saints’ third preseason game and was waived with an injury designation two days later. After going unclaimed, he reverted to injured reserve.
The Saints released Sunseri again in April 2016. Three months later, the Patriots signed him to a one-year, $525,000 contract after he visited the team for a workout.
2016 preview: New England’s safety position is arguably one of the deepest on the team, with six players as locks or near-locks to make the 53-man roster. Naturally, Sunseri’s odds of surviving roster cuts are slim. His best chance of making the team is beating out one of the depth options at safety or, more likely, linebacker by consistently outperforming them on defense and special teams.
Sunseri, who has the ability and size to play as a safety/linebacker-hybrid on defense, would therefore have to earn a roster spot over rookies Kamu Grugier-Hill and Elandon Roberts as well as free agency acquisition Ramon Humber. However, all three saw more playing time last week against the Saints as it seems that Sunseri is near the bottom of the defensive depth chart no matter the position.
While his fortunes could very much change over the next three weeks, the best case scenario for the 24-year old seems to be a spot on New England’s practice squad as of right now. He still has to prove himself worthy of such a spot, though.
Vinnie Sunseri has not yet been able to show why he was a fifth round draft pick just two years ago. Part of it was injuries, part of it was performance. While he is healthy now, Sunseri needs to improve his play on both defense and special teams to earn more practice reps and playing time and consequently more chances to outperform his fellow contestants for a roster spot. The odds, however, seem to be against him.