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 the newest member of the Patriots.
Name: Keionta Davis
Position: Defensive edge
Jersey number: 51
Opening day age: 23
Size: 6'4, 260 lbs.
2016 review: After a 2015 junior year that saw him earn first-team All-Division I Southern Conference and All-American honors, Keionta Davis was able to deliver another impressive season in 2016. The fifth-year senior, who appeared in all 13 games for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, was named the conference's defensive player of the year and again voted first-team All-SoCon and All-American.
Davis received his accolates due to his standout play on defense. Starting on the defensive edge, he registered a career-high 44 tackles (11.5 of which for loss) as well as 10.5 sacks. The Tennessee native added seven quarterback hurries and seven pass deflections and was able to force three fumbles and recover another one. Davis also blocked a field goal.
In short: He was a productive and versatile player during his last collegiate season. Because of his performance in 2016, Davis was invited to both the Senior Bowl and the scouting combine. But despite his productive time with the Mocs – he appeared in 50 games and registered the second-most career sacks in school history (31.0) – and being projected as a mid-round selection, Davis went unpicked during the 2017 NFL draft.
Among the reasons for that happening was, as later reported, a bulging disk in his neck. The injury did not force Davis to miss any time but scared teams enough to not select him during the draft's seven rounds.
2017 preview: Keionta Davis remained unsigned for more than four months after the draft – until the Patriots brought him on board last week. With fellow rookie Deatrich Wise Jr. suffering a concussion during Thursday's preseason opener, the team was left rather light on its defensive edge and Davis, who signed a three-year contract, will be asked to provide additional depth at the position.
Anything more than that would be a surprise as of right now: New England already has three edge defenders as locks to make the team – Trey Flowers, Derek Rivers and the aforementioned Wise Jr. – with other more experienced options fighting for the remaining spots on the roster or the practice squad. The newly signed Davis, therefore, is projected to be on the outside looking in once roster cuts start.
However, that does not disqualify the 23-year old from ultimately still earning a spot on the Patriots' payroll. Injuries or inconsistent play higher up on the depth chart could create an opening (realistically on the practice squad) and the high-upside Davis could take advantage if he quickly learns New England's defensive playbook, performs in the kicking game and generally acclimatizes himself to life in the NFL.