With opening day still three months away, 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. After all, the New England Patriots will hold their minicamp this week.
It will be the next step for players to secure 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’ll continue the series with an undrafted rookie cornerback.
Name: D.J. Killings
Jersey number: 29
Opening day age: 22
Size: 6’0, 185 lbs.
2016 review: During his injury-riddled 2015 season, D.J. Killings earned a part-time starting role at cornerback for the 0-12 Central Florida Knights. The following year, he solidified his standing on the team’s defense and started all 13 of its games. Overall, Killings registered 42 tackles – three of which for loss –, three interceptions, a sack and 11 pass breakups during his senior campaign.
Killing’s 2016 season was not only statistically the best of his career. He also established himself as one of the team leaders and despite mostly playing on the outside became the defense’s signal caller. However, he was still not invited to the NFL’s scouting combine and ultimately was not selected during the draft.
2017 preview: While the top of the Patriots’ cornerback depth chart is set with Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe, the depth behind the trio has not yet been defined. Six players are fighting for what appear to be a maximum of three roster spots and two of them are currently projected to go to Jonathan Jones and Cyrus Jones because of special teams prowess and potential upside, respectively.
Killings has a solid shot to earn the sixth spot, at least if he can take advantage of his noted leadership and intelligence. As a versatile player capable of playing on the perimeter, in the slot and even at free safety, he would also add valuable depth at multiple positions. Of course, above all, he needs to make the most out of every practice rep he will get over the next three months.
Only if he proves to be a competitive and consistent player on defense and special teams, will the Patriots keep him – either as a depth cornerback on the active roster or on the practice squad. Despite the competition and depth throughout the team, it would not be a surprise to see the Patriots give Killings and the potential he brings a shot.