The New England Patriots, who are entering the final days of their organized team activities, currently have 89 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 one of New England’s offseason acquisitions.
Name: Dontrelle Inman
Position: Wide receiver
Jersey number: 15
Opening day age: 30
Size: 6’3, 205 lbs.
2018 review: Even though the Chicago Bears decided to acquire Dontrelle Inman via trade midway through the 2017 season, they opted not to re-sign the veteran when the year came to an end. As a result, Inman entered free agency — and remained on the open market until the Indianapolis Colts picked him up six weeks into the 2018 regular season. But despite being a late addition to his new team, he was able to carve out a considerable role quickly.
Playing as a rotational second/third wide receiver option, Inman appeared in nine regular season and two playoff games for Indianapolis and was used as both a bigger slot target and as an X-receiver on the boundary. As such, he became one of the Colts’ most productive offensive players: only T.Y. Hilton and Eric Ebron out-produced him in the three biggest receiving statistics (passes, yards, touchdowns) after he had joined the team.
All in all, Inman registered 28 receptions for 304 yards and 3 touchdowns during his comparatively short regular season in Indianapolis, and was on the field for 53.7% (371 of 691) of the club’s offensive snaps after week seven. The postseason was more of the same for Inman: he was again a core piece of the Colts offense, and played 72 of 129 snaps over the team’s two playoff contests.
And even though Indianapolis was eliminated from the tournament by the eventual AFC runner-ups — the Kansas City Chiefs — in the divisional round, the postseason was a successful one for Inman individually: he caught 8 more passes for 108 yards and a touchdown, and proved that he could still be a productive player even when going against the league’s best teams.
2019 preview: Despite his rather successful first campaign with the team, the Colts did not re-sign Inman in free agency — paving the way for him to join the Patriots in mid-May: he signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with New England that included $300,000 in guarantees. His deal in combination with the fact that he was acquired relatively late during the offseason shows that the 30-year-old is no lock to make the team.
That being said, Inman has the tools to be a productive player for a Patriots team that typically is able to put its talent in favorable situations. If he can use his strengths in space and his outstanding hands, he could very well make the team over player such as Demaryius Thomas and minicamp standout Maurice Harris. Of course, he needs to create a rapport with Tom Brady quickly — something he did not do so far.
After all, Inman was one of the disappointments of mandatory minicamp as he failed to catch even a single ball in team action. Whether or not this is reflective of his long-term outlook in New England remains to be seen, but it is not exactly encouraging especially when considering that other offseason additions to New England’s new-look pass catching corps were noticeably more active during the four practices open to the media so far.
If this continues in training camp, don’t be surprised if the Dontrelle Inman era in New England will be a rather short one. But of course, there is also still plenty of time to turn things around.