The New England Patriots currently have the maximum of 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on September 1 and ultimately make the team. Over the next weeks, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Today, the series continues with a rookie quarterback.
Name: Danny Etling
Jersey number: TBA (offseason #58)
Opening day age: 24
Size: 6’3, 215 lbs.
2017 review: Playing in an offense that put an emphasis on controlling the pace of the game and running the football, Danny Etling's senior season was the most successful of his five-year college career (Etling spent two years at Purdue before transferring to LSU after the 2014 campaign): Starting all 13 of Louisiana State's games, the quarterback completed 165 of his 275 pass attempts (60.0%) for 2,463 yards – all career bests.
Etling also threw 16 touchdowns as opposed to only two interceptions, setting a single season school record for interception percentage along the way. The Tigers' two-year starter, who was named the SEC's Scholar-Athlete of the Year, furthermore scored two rushing touchdowns. They should, however, hardly be indicative of his mobility outside the pocket as Etling brings a rather traditional skill-set to the table.
All in all, Etling played a big role in leading LSU to a 9-4 record and a berth in the Citrus Bowl. And even though the season ultimately ended in defeat, it can still be considered a successful one for LSU's quarterback: After all, he was invited to the NFL's scouting combine after the year and established himself as a passer worth taking a shot at late in the draft or early during free agency.
2018 preview: With the 219th overall selection, the Patriots opted to take a flier on Etling after passing on higher-profile quarterback options all draft long. The seventh-rounder will now enter an experienced position depth chart headed by undisputed starter Tom Brady and seasoned backup Brian Hoyer. But while Hoyer is not as flashy a backup as his predecessor Jimmy Garoppolo was, it still appears likely he will make the team.
The question for Etling therefore becomes whether he can earn a spot on the 53-man roster as a third quarterback or can even challenge Hoyer's number two spot. The latter, given the rookie's lack of experience, seems lees likely – but that does not mean the soon-to-be 24-year old won't still be able to make the team come September. All he needs to do over the summer is convince the coaches that he is worth a spot.
In order to achieve that, Etling will need to show an ability to quickly adapt to life in the NFL. The few open OTA practices this offseason already seemed like a solid start for him: He has worked on refining his technique and looked more fluid as a passer when compared to his college days. While he was still behind Hoyer in terms of volume, the rookie did not look overwhelmed.
If Etling continues making the most out of his practice and preseason opportunities, it would not be a surprise if he edges out another depth player to make the team. If not, however, his release – and potential signing to the practice squad – would also not be a shocker. Only one thing seems certain: Etling will not see a lot if any regular season playing time this year.