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 second-year players.
Name: Trent Harris
Position: Defensive edge
Jersey number: 45
Opening day age: 23
Size: 6’2, 255 lbs.
2018 review: When the Patriots signed Trent Harris as an undrafted rookie free agent, they added him to a deep defensive edge group that was set at the top with Trey Flowers, Adrian Clayborn, Deatrich Wise Jr., and Derek Rivers all locks to make the team. Consequently, the rookie was fighting for one of the spots behind them either on the 53-man roster or the practice squad. Training camp already showed that the latter was more realistic.
While Harris was little more than a depth option on the edge all summer, he did see regular action in preseason. Overall, he was on the field for 107 of a possible 284 defensive snaps (37.7%) over the Patriots’ four contests as a sub-pass rusher. Harris finished the preseason with a team-high 2.5 sacks while also registering an additional quarterback hit as well as 10 pressures — solid numbers but somewhat reflective of the quality of blockers across him.
Nevertheless, there was a lot to like about the Miami product during New England’s exhibition games: on top of his success as a pass rusher, he also saw part-time action on special teams — playing a combined 17 snaps (of 111; 15.3%), primarily on punt coverage and punt return units — and as an edge-setter in the running game. And while it was not enough to save him from getting released during roster cutdowns, it did prompt the Patriots to quickly bring him back via their practice squad.
Harris went on to spend his entire rookie campaign on New England’s scout team. Along the way, he also earned recognition as a practice player of the week seven times — tied for most on the team with wide receiver Damoun Patterson. All in all, Harris’ first NFL season can therefore still be seen as a success considering his status as an undrafted rookie signing.
2019 preview: After the Super Bowl, Harris was signed to a reserve/futures contract by the Patriots which will give him another chance to earn a spot on the team. However, he finds himself in a similar position as he was in last year: despite Flowers and Clayborn leaving the club over the course of the offseason, Harris is again projected to primarily serve as a rotational depth option aiming to earn a spot on the practice squad.
After all, the 23-year-old has four roster locks — Deatrich Wise Jr, Michael Bennett, John Simon, Chase Winovich — ahead of him on the depth chart and is going against higher-upside options such as Derek Rivers and Keionta Davis for the other available spots alongside them. Unless he stands out during training camp and the preseason, it would not be a surprise if the better athletes were given the nod over him.
If the 23-year-old makes the most out of his opportunities on defense and in the kicking game like he did during 2018’s preseason and in practice, however, Harris might just prove his value to the team as a defender worth keeping around on the scout team for the second straight year. His tenure in New England could therefore continue even in case he fails to earn a roster spot again.