The New England Patriots, who will return to work when they open their training camp next week, 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 a member of New England’s defensive edge rotation.
Name: John Simon
Position: Defensive edge
Jersey number: 55
Opening day age: 28
Size: 6’2, 260 lbs.
2018 review: In March 2017, John Simon signed a three-year, $13.5 million free agency contract with the Indianapolis Colts but his tenure with the team was an unsuccessful one. In his first year with the club, he appeared in just nine games before a shoulder injury cut his season short. The following summer, he tried to make a comeback but failed to earn a spot on Indianapolis’ 53-man roster and was released on cutdown day.
Simon remained out of a job for more than three weeks until the Patriots added him to their rotation along the defensive edge. For the former fourth-round draft pick, New England picking him up was arguably the best thing that could have happened: not only did he carve out a regular role as the number four edge defender on the roster, he also capped his first near with the Patriots by earning his first Super Bowl ring.
All in all, Simon appeared in fourteen of his new club’s nineteen games last year: he was on the field for 185 of a possible 826 defensive snaps (22.4%) after joining the Patriots early during the regular season (he was signed before week four), and added 85 more (of 188; 45.2%) over his three postseason appearances. While the numbers do not particularly stand out, Simon was a valuable rotational option on New England’s defense.
The numbers reflect this. As a part-time pass rusher, he finished 2018 with 2.5 quarterback sacks as well as 3 hits and 2 additional hurries. While his contributions in the passing game were solid, Simon’s best work came as a stout edge-setter in the running game. He registered 12 total tackles in the running game, missing on not even one of his takedown attempts. In short: Simon did his job whenever called upon.
This also held true in the kicking game, where he played a combined 107 of 460 possible snaps (23.3%). Primarily lining up on kickoff and punt return units, Simon did not show up on the stat sheet but still proved his versatility and value to the club on a week-to-week basis. It was therefore no surprise to see New England quickly act at the start of free agency to bring Simon back into the fold for two more years.
2019 preview: In March, Simon and the Patriots agreed to a two-year, $7.2 million contract. While the deal does not guarantee the 28-year-old a spot on the team, it would be a surprise if New England moved on from the veteran this offseason. After all, he did carve out a role on the team last year and also offers experienced depth along a defensive edge that lost both Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn over the course of the offseason.
With the two gone, Simon now becomes one of the group’s senior members. As such, he is again projected to see considerable playing time as a third/fourth option at the position and be on the field for around 35-45% of defensive snaps. Even though he will likely again not post the flashiest numbers, he will play his role well and contribute both on defense and special teams — not bad for a rotational player.