Due to a series of rule changes over the past few years, each NFL team is now able to bring back two players from the injured reserve list. The New England Patriots tried to take advantage of this last year but each time were unable to get the designated returnees up to speed: Linebacker Shea McClellin and wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell both were never activated to the 53-man roster and ended their respective seasons on the sidelines.
But while McClellin has since been released by the team, Mitchell appears to be well on his way back: According to The Athletic's Jeff Howe, the 2016 fourth-round draft selection is expected to participate in the Patriots' organized team activities:
At this point, Malcolm Mitchell is expected to be on the field when the Patriots begin OTAs in a couple weeks. Missed the entire offseason program last year before obviously going down in training camp, then the preseason and losing all of 2017.
In February, Mitchell acknowledged that this offseason would be a big one for him: “Obviously I missed all of last season and I won’t shy away from the importance of making sure I’m ready when we start OTAs.” It certainly looks as if this will be the case now and the 24-year old will return to the field when New England kicks off the first of its organized team activities one week from today.
Being able to participate is certainly good news for Mitchell, who finds himself as part of a fierce competition for roster spots at wide receiver. Despite the Patriots moving on from both Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola – the top two wideouts in 2017 –, the team has plenty of bodies at the position fighting for practice reps and ultimately a role on the 53-man roster.
Before missing all of 2017 due to a lingering foot injury, Mitchell displayed his talents during his 2016 rookie campaign: The Georgia product was able to establish himself as a regular member of New England’s wide receiver rotation and played 540 of a possible 1,120 offensive snaps during the regular season (48.2%) as the Patriots’ number three wideout in terms of playing time.
Showing a very good initial rapport with the team’s quarterbacks, precise route running and physical blocking, Mitchell was given a lot of opportunities during his first NFL season. He made the most out of them and finished the regular season with 32 receptions for 401 yards and four scores. He also registered seven catches for 75 yards in the playoffs while playing a total of 100 snaps (of 242, 41.3%).