With training camp starting next week, the NFL's most quiet period is set to come to an end soon. For the New England Patriots, rookies will report on July 24 and veterans two days later – and on July 27, the defending world champions will hold their first practice of this year's camp.
Over the next month, players have a chance to earn a spot either on the team's 53-man roster or the practice squad. Throughout the offseason, we will take a look at the men fighting for those few select spots on the 2017 Patriots to find out who will and might be asked to help the team defend its Super Bowl title.
Today, we will continue the series with one of the Patriots' undrafted rookies.
Name: Josh Augusta
Position: Defensive tackle
Jersey number: 72b
Opening day age: 23
Size: 6’4, 335 lbs.
2016 review: A mountain of a man at 6'4, 335 lbs., defensive tackle Josh Augusta was unable to consistently establish himself as a member of the starting defensive line through his four years at the University of Missouri. And while he did hold a starting role in 2015, the Tigers' new coaching staff opted to use him as a key reserve during his 2016 senior season.
The role that suited Augusta well, though, and helped him maximize his on-field impact. Overall, the Illinois native appeared in all 12 of the team's games and was mostly used as a run stuffer; one that won his battle more due to size and strength than technique. Still, Augusta was productive and finished with 23 tackles – four of which for loss – while also adding a sack, a hurry and a pass breakup.
The Tigers also used Augusta as a part-time fullback in 2016, a role he will not play in the NFL but nevertheless allowed him to score the only two touchdowns of his college career. Mostly employed as a blocker in short yardage situations, Augusta also carried the ball 10 times for a total of 15 yards.
Following the season, Augusta was invited to the East-West-Shrine Game and displayed some quick feet during drills. However, he was not selected during the 2017 NFL draft.
2017 preview: Following the draft, Josh Augusta and the intriguing set of physical attributes he brings to the table did not remain unemployed for long: The Patriots officially announced signing the free agent on May 5. However, given the depth and quality ahead of him, Augusta is projected to at best compete for one of the 10 available spots on New England's practice squad.
The odds of that happening do not appear favorable for the rookie – at least when judged by one of his spring practices. During the Patriots' minicamp, Augusta visibly struggled with conditioning (which could also be a reason why he usually played on a limited snap count at Missouri). Improving it therefore has to be a priority for the soon-to-be 23-year old, along with his pass rush and short-area quickness. He also has to keep an eye on his playing weight.
If he is able to do all that, Augusta should put himself in a solid position to earn one of the practice squad spots due to the raw upside he offers. If not, however, it would not be a surprise to see him get beaten out by fellow defensive tackles Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo and Adam Butler – who all bring a bit more defensive versatility to the table. His tenure in New England might therefore potentially come to a quick end.