The New England Patriots, who will be off until training camp starts later this month, 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 undrafted rookie signings.
Name: D’Angelo Ross
Jersey number: TBD (offseason #70)
Opening day age: 22
Size: 5’9, 180 lbs.
2018 review: Entering his second season in New Mexico after transferring from Fullerton College, D’Angelo Ross was penciled in as a starter in the Lobos’ secondary — and he showed why by being one of the club’s few reliable defenders in 2018. On the year, the senior cornerback appeared in all twelve of his team’s games and finished among its leaders in most statistical categories.
Overall, Ross was credited with 54 solo tackles and 15 defensive stops by advanced analytics website Pro Football Focus — all while missing just three tackle attempts all year long. Furthermore, the California native registered an interception as well as a team-leading six pass breakups. On top of it all, he also forced a fumble and saw regular action in the kicking game. Needless to say that Ross was a cornerstone of New Mexico’s team last year.
Despite that and a solid performance at his pro day — he posted a 4.32 40-yard dash that would have ranked third among cornerbacks at the scouting combine — Ross generated little concrete interest heading into the draft. As a result, he did not hear his name called during the three-day event and had to wait for free agency to find a home in the pros. Find one he did, however, when the world champions called.
2019 preview: The Patriots signed Ross as a part of their first wave of rookie free agency additions, giving him a three-year contract that includes $17,500 in guarantees. The comparatively low investment on the team’s side reflects the 22-year-old’s standing on the team: he is fighting an uphill battle to earn a spot on New England’s 53-man roster — unsurprisingly given his draft status and the club’s deep secondary.
Ross nevertheless has a lot to play for during training camp and the preseason, namely a potential spot on the Patriots’ practice squad. In order to earn one of the ten spots (or maybe even a role on the active team) he will have to stand his ground against Keion Crossen and man Ken Webster. To do that, the undrafted rookie needs to prove his value not just as a defender — likely as a slot cornerback — but also in the kicking game.
Ultimately, Crossen and Webster have a better outlook when it comes to winning this competition given their experience (Crossen) and intriguing athletic profile (Webster). That being said, a solid performance could still earn Ross a role as a developmental scout team cornerback — and thus give him a good foundational start heading into his NFL career.