The New England Patriots currently have 89 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 course of the offseason, we 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 another one of New England’s offensive linemen.
Name: LaAdrian Waddle
Position: Offensive tackle
Jersey number: 68
Opening day age: 27
Size: 6’6, 315 lbs.
2017 review: After two seasons as little more than an emergency option, LaAdrian Waddle had a quasi-breakout year in 2017. The offensive tackle established himself as the Patriots’ number three at the position behind Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon over the course of training camp and ultimately wound up replacing Cannon at right tackle after the starter suffered a season-ending ankle injury in week eight.
As far as injury replacements go, Waddle was as solid as they come: While he gave up seven quarterback hits, he did not allow a sack in place of Cannon. However, he suffered an injury himself in late November and as a result was relegated to a backup spot again; Cameron Fleming took over starting duties at the right tackle spot for the remainder of the regular season while Waddle saw only rotational snaps on offense and special teams.
He was back in the starting lineup for the divisional playoffs but again exited the game with an injury. As a result, Fleming was the starter in both the AFC title game and the Super Bowl and Waddle forced to finish the season with only five combined starts. All in all, he finished the season with 14 in-game appearances – 12 during the regular season and two during the playoffs – and an offensive playing time rate of 27.9% (380 of 1,360 possible snaps).
All in all, Waddle had a mostly solid season in 2017 but struggled to stay healthy once he was given the chance to start. That being said, he showed that he can be more than just a backup tackle in the league and produced arguably his finest season to date.
2018 preview: After losing Solder earlier in free agency, the Patriots re-signed Waddle to a one-year, $1.5 million contract. With Fleming also gone, the veteran therefore returned as the front runner to earn the number three tackle spot – at least until New England drafted Isaiah Wynn in round one. He still appears to have a solid standing on the Patriots’ roster, though, as the team’s primary backup right tackle and a potential swing option as well.
During the team’s first preseason game, the 27-year old served as the starting right tackle and played 22 offensive snaps (of 72; 31%). While he did give up a sack – one that also has quarterback Brian Hoyer’s name written on it –, Waddle showed that he is the Patriots’ top option at the position as long as Cannon continues to deal with an undisclosed injury that has plagued him since early during training camp.
As a result, Waddle should be expected to be on the Patriots’ opening day roster again this year: he is, after all, a more experienced option than Wynn and also seems to have the coaching staff’s trust. Coming off an encouraging 2017 campaign, this should all be enough to earn him another round as a depth option along New England’s offensive line – one that could again start in a heartbeat if need be.