The New England Patriots’ officially activated their first player off injured reserve yesterday: rookie cornerback Duke Dawson, a second-round draft pick out of Florida this spring, has joined the 53-man roster. The move adds additional depth to a Patriots defensive backfield that has — with some exceptions — generally been good so far this season. Let’s find out what bringing Dawson back means for the team:
Dawson joins an already deep position group
Even though the Patriots were forced to place Eric Rowe on the now season-ending injured reserve list two weeks ago, the team still has plenty of bodies at the cornerback position. Veterans Stephon Gilmore and Jason McCourty serve as the starters on the defensive perimeter and have established themselves as a very good top duo. Jonathan Jones, meanwhile, has established himself as a productive presence in the slot while youngsters J.C. Jackson and Keion Crossen offer additional depth behind the top three. Now, Dawson is added to this group.
Jonathan Jones has some competition in the slot
During spring practices and early in training camp, Dawson regularly saw snaps with the Patriots’ starting defense. Playing primarily in the slot, the rookie looked comfortable before hurting his hamstring and ultimately getting placed on injured reserve. Now that he is back off the list, he will bring some competition to a slot position that has primarily been manned by Jonathan Jones. Jones has looked good when on the field, so it will be interesting to see how New England’s coaching staff will use the rookie.
50% of the cornerback group are now rookies
With Dawson joining the active roster, the Patriots now have three rookies on their six-man cornerback depth chart. The second-round pick out of Florida joins seventh-round selection Keion Crossen and undrafted free agent J.C. Jackson as the depth option at the position — a noteworthy allocation of resources considering that that only one other rookie is currently on the 53-man squad: first-round running back Sony Michel. The rest of the team’s rookie class is either on the practice squad, injured reserve, or off the team.
The 2018 Patriots have better luck than the 2017 Patriots
Last year, New England used its two IR-return designations on linebacker Shea McClellin and wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell. However, neither of the two was ultimately unable to join the 53-man team as both suffered setbacks in practice before a potential activation. This year, it appears as if the Patriots have better luck when it comes to returning players off the injury list. The team has to hope this continues when running back Rex Burkhead is ready to be activated as well.