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 one of the Patriots' edge defenders.
Name: Geneo Grissom
Position: Defensive edge / Special teamer
Jersey number: 92
Opening day age: 25
Size: 6'4, 265 lbs.
2016 review: After appearing in 15 games during his 2015 rookie campaign, Geneo Grissom appeared to take the next step forward with a productive 2016 preseason which saw him play considerable and productive snaps on both defense and special teams. It was still not enough to crack the Patriots' deep defensive edge rotation, though, and prevent New England from releasing Grissom during final roster cuts.
However, the team brought him back via its practice squad the very next day. The Oklahoma product started the regular season on New England's scout team but was promoted to the active roster when linebacker Jonathan Freeny and tight end Greg Scruggs were placed on injured reserve prior to week five. Not only did Grissom remain on the Patriots' 53-man roster for the rest of the season, he was active each week.
Overall, he appeared in the team's final 11 regular season games as well as all three postseason contests. As has been the case in 2015, the majority of Grissom's playing time came on special teams: While he played a mere 12 defensive snaps all season long (none of which during the playoffs) and registered only one tackle, he was a fixture in the kicking game and saw time on all four kickoff and punt units.
In that role, the former third round draft pick played 251 of 449 snaps during the regular season (55.9%) and 62 of 93 (66.7%) during the Patriots' playoff run. Grissom finished the season with four tackles and as a wedge blocker helped Dion Lewis score the first playoff kick return touchdown in franchise history. All in all, Grissom therefore had a solid second year in the NFL – even though it did not look like it early in the season.
2017 preview: Despite a solid 2016 campaign and modest salary cap hit ($625,000; 50th highest on the team) Geneo Grissom is no lock to make the Patriots' 53-man roster. Not even the recent retirement of veteran defensive edge Rob Ninkovich makes him one; such is life on the NFL's deepest team. Grissom will therefore have to beat out his competitors for practice reps, playing time and ultimately a spot on the team.
While his experience gives him an edge over younger players trying to make the team – most notably linebacker Harvey Langi –, his relative one-dimensionality hurts his stock: While he is a productive special teamer, Grissom does not appear to be much of a factor on defense when judged by his first two years in the league. Then again, if there is one team in the NFL that likes to invest in the kicking game it is New England.
The question is whether or not keeping the 25-year old is worth leaving a higher-upside option at another position off the roster? Last year, the answer initially was “no”. However, particularly after losing another core special teamer in free agency – Barkevious Mingo –, it would not be a surprise to see Grissom ultimately make the team this time; or at the least join the practice squad again.
In case he finds his way on the Patriots' active roster one way or the other, Grissom's third season in the league is not expected to look much different from his first two: He would likely serve primarily as a special teamer and only occasionally see playing time on defense. His roster fate is therefore dependent on his ability to outperform others eyeing a similar role (safety Jordan Richards or a third tight end, for example).