The New England Patriots are in the middle of their 2017 training camp, which has started in late July. Over the remainder of camp, the 90 players currently under contract with the team are now in the process of fighting for spots on either the 53-man roster or the 10-man practice squad.
As we have done throughout the offseason, we will continue to take a look at the men fighting for those few select spots on the 2017 Patriots – and 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 a backup defensive tackle.
Name: Darius Kilgo
Position: Defensive tackle
Jersey number: 96
Opening day age: 25
Size: 6'3, 320 lbs.
2016 review: After spending his entire rookie campaign on the Denver Broncos' 53-man roster, Darius Kilgo also started his second season in the NFL on the Broncos' active team. He earned a role as a backup defensive tackle and appeared in nine of the team's first 10 games of the season. When active – he was a healthy scratch in week nine –, Kilgo played 81 of a possible 619 defensive snaps (13.1%).
When on the field, the former sixth round draft pick registered five tackles and a quarterback hit. And while his numbers did not stand out, Kilgo provided valuable insurance behind starter Sylvester Williams. It was therefore a minor surprise to see Denver waive him in late November to make room for long snapper Thomas Gafford. Kilgo did not pass the waiver wire, however, and was picked up by the Patriots.
The Maryland product was signed to New England's 53-man roster but did not see any playing time before being released again prior to the team's week 14 game. The Patriots then signed Kilgo to their practice squad where he spent the remainder of the 2016 season – earning a) recognition as a practice player of the week one time and b) his second Super Bowl ring in as many years in the league.
2017 preview: Following the Super Bowl, New England signed nine players to futures contracts – among them Darius Kilgo. The one-year, $615,000 contract gives him a chance to compete for a spot on the Patriots' 53-man roster. The chances of that actually happening, however, appear to be slim given how deep the team currently is at the defensive tackle position.
Even with roster lock Alan Branch still on PUP, the Patriots have plenty of talent: Malcom Brown and Lawrence Guy will be on the team come the regular season, while second-year pro Vincent Valentine is the favorite to join them (his inactivity during the preseason opener reflects this). Kilgo, therefore, is projected to fight for one of New England's 10 practice squad spots.
The 25-year old appears to be off to a good start: He was a starter against the Jacksonville Jaguars and played 33 of 57 defensive snaps (58%) – the same as his main competitors for the practice squad, Woodrow Hamilton and Josh Augusta. And while Kilgo lacks athletic upside, he has an edge over Hamilton and Augusta when it comes to experience.
Whether or not this is enough for him to win the battle remains to be seen. If the past is any indication, however, New England's coaching staff might not be afraid to go with the higher-upside candidates as opposed to the experienced ones.