The New England Patriots, who will be off until training camp starts in late July, currently have 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on August 31 and ultimately make the team. Over the course of the summer, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots defend their Super Bowl title.
Today, the series continues with a second-year cornerback.
Name: Keion Crossen
Position: Cornerback/Special teamer
Jersey number: 35
Opening day age: 23
Size: 5’10, 185 lbs.
2018 review: It took until the third day of the 2018 NFL for Keion Crossen to finally hear his name called. When he did — with the 243rd overall selection in the seventh round — the West Virginia product became a member of the Patriots’ deep secondary. Despite this depth on his new team in combination with his draft status, however, Crossen was able to see regular top-level action in practice and preseason and ultimately survive roster cuts.
Overall, he was active for fourteen of New England’s nineteen games during the season and saw most of his action in the kicking game: Crossen was on the field for 24.9% of the Patriots’ special teams snaps (113 of 453) during the regular season, a number that jumped to 46.7% (43 of 92) in the playoffs. Serving primarily as a gunner on kickoff and punt coverage teams, the rookie registered 9 tackles — the fourth-most on the team.
All of his tackles were solo-takedowns, which tied him with Matthew Slater for the most on the team in 2018 despite appearing in five fewer games than the team captain. Crossen’s success as a special teamer did not translate to a regular defensive role, however. Instead, he saw the field sparingly as a sixth defensive back: he played just 39 snaps during the regular season (of 1,043; 3.7%) and 14 more in the playoffs (of 188; 7.4%).
When on the field as a defender, Crossen was marginally successful. He was targeted on 8 of his 53 combined snaps and surrendered 7 receptions for 136 yards — not exactly awe-inspiring numbers, but not too terrible either considering his role as the last cornerback on the Patriots’ game-day roster. All in all, therefore, his season can be seen as a successful one especially given his contributions in the kicking game.
2019 preview: Despite a solid rookie campaign, Crossen is far from a lock to make New England’s 53-man roster this time around. A lot may depend on his growth as a cornerback in relation to the competition the Patriots brought on board this offseason: seventh-round selection Ken Webster projects to be the main obstacle between Crossen and making the team, while undrafted rookie D’Angelo Ross also has been added to the mix.
If Webster and/or Ross show similar abilities as Crossen on special teams during training camp and preseason, they may be able to beat out the incumbent if they also show more upside on defense. Of course, Crossen himself can fend off the two challengers if he makes the famed second-year jump and becomes more consistent as a cornerback — all while continuing to show his value as a member of the Patriots’ kick coverage teams.
As things stand right now, Crossen’s experience in the system and productivity on special teams last season make him the favorite to earn a spot on the team over Webster and Ross — but a lot can change between now and August 31’s roster cutdowns.