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 an undrafted rookie defender.
Name: Trent Harris
Position: Defensive edge
Jersey number: TBD (offseason #63)
Opening day age: 22
Size: 6’2, 255 lbs.
2017 review: Despite being undersized when compared to traditional edge defenders, Trent Harris was able to carve out a key rotational role on Miami’s defense. His 2017 senior season was more of the same: he appeared in all 13 of the Hurricanes’ games and finished the year as one of the team’s most productive defenders – all while setting numerous career-highs and earning third-team All-ACC honors.
Harris finished his final college season as Miami’s top pass rusher, and led the team with a personal-best 8.5 sacks and six additional quarterback hits. Furthermore, he registered 37 tackles of which 10.5 resulted in a loss of yardage. His statistical output is only part of what made Harris’ fourth year with the Hurricanes a successful one: “Toolbox Trent” was also used in multiple roles along the team’s defensive front seven.
Living up to his nickname, Harris lined up on and off the line of scrimmage, at both linebacker and the traditional defensive end spot. And while his lack of size and top-notch athleticism hurt him at times, he was able to do well due to his intelligence and rather sound technique. However, he still entered draft season as a relative afterthought: Harris was not invited to the scouting combine and headed for undrafted free agency.
2018 preview: When the Patriots signed Harris as an undrafted free agent, they added him to a defensive edge group that appears to be set at the top with Trey Flowers, Adrian Clayborn, Deatrich Wise Jr., and Derek Rivers all locks to make the team. Consequently, the rookie appears to fight for either a fifth spot behind the top quartet or – more realistically – a spot on New England’s 10-man practice squad.
It will not be easy, though: he is having a relatively quiet training camp so far and seems to be at the bottom of the depth chart. For him to improve his position and jump ahead of fellow practice squad hopefuls at defensive edge and linebacker, the 22-year old needs to make the most out of his opportunities on both defense and special teams, and continue working on his instincts and play recognition skills to overcome his physical limitations.
Overall, Harris is an interesting player due to his versatility and intelligence. Unless he performs well during preseason, however, it would not be a surprise if his day in New England were limited and better athletes given the nod over him. That being said, there are still three weeks to go until roster cutdowns, and for Harris to prove his value to the team as a developmental defender able to step up when called upon.