With opening day still three months away and the mandatory portion of the initial wave of offseason workouts over, we have entered the more quiet parts of the NFL offseason. However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop.
During workouts and studying sessions, players still have a chance to lay the foundation for their spots on the team. Over the course of the next few months, we will take a look at the men fighting for them on the 2017 New England Patriots. 53 of currently 90 players will be asked to help the team defend its Super Bowl title.
Today, we will continue the series with one of New England’s undrafted rookie signees.
Name: Damarius Travis
Position: Strong safety
Jersey number: 45
Opening day age: 23
Size: 6’2, 215 lbs.
2016 review: During his 2016 season with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Damarius Travis became a fixture in the team’s secondary. After being a part-time starter his first four collegiate years and missing almost the entire 2015 season because of a nagging hamstring injury, he started all 13 of Minnesota’s games during his redshirt senior campaign.
When on the field, the Florida native was a difference maker for one of the nation’s better defenses. Travis, who played both safety spots as well as slot cornerback, led the team with 83 tackles – four of which for loss – and added two interceptions as well as four pass breakups. He also had a fumble recovery and was a steady presence on special teams.
Despite his very solid final year at Minnesota, Travis went unselected in this year’s draft. He was not out of a job for long, though, as the Patriots signed him to a rookie free agent deal shortly after the draft.
2017 preview: Travis is one of seven undrafted rookie free agants, the Patriots brought on board this offseason. As such, he faces what projects to be a tight competition for practice reps and preseason playing time. Bringing his A-game to training camp is therefore imperative if he wants to earn a realistic shot at making the roster.
What helps Travis is his versatility as well as his primary defensive position. After all, New England lacks depth behind starting strong safety Patrick Chung. While Nate Ebner and Brandon King are relative safe bets to make the team, they have almost exclusively been used as special teamers over the course of their careers. The same goes for fellow safety and former second round pick Jordan Richards, the player most likely needed to be beat out for a spot on the 53-man roster.
If Travis can prove himself capable of playing competitive defense as well as special teams over the next two months, he might be able to earn one of the final roster spots. Before doing that, though, he still needs to improve his rather raw technique, which in turn might help make up for his lack of quickness and straight-line speed.
If Travis, who is considered a coachable, high-character player, can do that, he could earn a role as a depth strong safety/linebacker hybrid on the Patriots’ roster or practice squad.