On Monday, the New England Patriots made another move at their kicker position when they released Kai Forbath after just one game with the team. Forbath was originally brought on board last week in order to replace Nick Folk after his appendectomy — Folk himself replaced Mike Nugent, who first filled in after starting place kicker Stephen Gostkowski was placed on season-ending injured reserve — but ended up attempting just three kicks in a Patriots uniform.
Forbath’s roster spot did not remain open for long, though, as the team immediately filled it by claiming a player from the league’s waiver wire. Said player was not a kicker, however, but rather a defensive lineman: undrafted rookie Albert Huggins was added to New England’s 53-man roster as the fifth defensive tackle behind top-trio Lawrence Guy, Danny Shelton and Adam Butler, as well as fifth-round draft selection Byron Cowart.
So what does Huggins bring to the table to warrant a roster spot — one that could potentially go to another kicker again soon as it seems unlikely the current personnel will handle the responsibilities moving forward? According to Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, the 22-year-old primarily offers additional depth at the defensive line alongside the four players mentioned above and three-technique end Deatrich Wise Jr.
“He’s obviously a young player, a rookie player — a guy that we evaluated last year in the draft out of Clemson,” Belichick said about Huggins during a media conference call earlier this week. “He’s a pretty big kid, 6-foot-3ish, somewhere in that ballpark, over 300 pounds. He’s had a little bit of playing time for Philadelphia, was with Houston earlier in the year. So, we’ve had a couple different looks at him. We only had five defensive linemen on our roster and he was on waivers, so we’ll take a look at it, see how it goes.”
As Belichick pointed out, Huggins originally started his career in the NFL with the Houston Texans before getting signed off the team’s practice squad in early October by the Philadelphia Eagles. In Philadelphia, he saw his first in-game action when he played 44 snaps as an interior defensive lineman over a four-game span and also added nine more special teams snaps as a member of the Eagles’ field goal units.
His main contributions came as a rotational defender, however, and Huggins proved himself a solid player both against the run and the pass — an encouraging development from his college days, especially when going back to the scouting reports written on him during the pre-draft process. The Draft Network’s Joe Marino, for example, said the following about the Clemson product earlier this year:
Huggins is an appealing prospect because of his power at the point of attack and how he eats space, consumes blocks and keeps the linebacker free. With that said, his hand usage to disengage and pass rushing profile are both underdeveloped which decreases his value. Huggins is likely to be an early down rotational player at the next level.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, meanwhile, sang a similar tune about Huggins:
Huggins’ ability to occupy blocks and stand his ground against double teams will be of value to specific defensive units. He won’t make many plays outside his area and is unlikely to see rush downs, but run-stuffers still matter and he could hear his name called later on Day 3 with a chance to become a rotational nose in an odd or even front.
His pre-draft portfolio in combination with how the Texans and Eagles opted to use him during his short stints suggests that Huggins will primarily serve as an early-down defender to complement starting options Guy and Shelton in the middle of the defense. The two veterans have played some very good football so far this season, but also seen considerable action for players weighing 300+ pounds.
While Guy has played 51.5% of New England’s defensive snaps, Shelton was on the field for 49.3%. Adding another body to the equation is certainly a smart move when it comes to lowering the workload for the interior duo. That being said, it would also not be a surprise if the Patriots simply signed Huggins to take a close look at him before potentially trying to stash him on their own practice squad in favor of a new kicker.