The New England Patriots, who will return to work when they open their training camp later this 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 one of New England’s offseason additions.
Name: Nick Thurman
Position: Defensive tackle
Jersey number: TBD (offseason #86)
Opening day age: 24
Size: 6’4, 305 lbs.
2018 review: Despite being a two-year starter at the University of Houston, Nick Thurman did not hear his name called during the NFL’s 2018 draft. Instead, the interior defensive lineman had to go through free agency to find a home. But find one he did: the Houston Texans signed him to their 90-man roster shortly after the draft, and gave him plenty of opportunities to prove himself during their four preseason games.
Thurman was on the field for 90 of Houston’s 279 defensive snaps (32.3%) and saw action as both a run stopper and an inside pass rusher. His success was limited, though, as he finished the preseason with 11 tackles — 9 of which in the running game — and just a single quarterback pressure. As a result of his lack of productivity in combination with virtually no special teams impact (Thurman played only one kicking game snap), Houston decided to let the rookie go during roster cutdowns.
The big-bodied defender failed to find a new home in the NFL after getting released by Bill O’Brien’s team, and ultimately headed to the now-defunct Alliance of American Football. Thurman signed with the San Antonio Commanders but never actually appeared in a game for his new team: he was cut again before the AAF’s first (and only) season even began. His first year as a pro therefore ended with him not playing in a single game.
2019 preview: After a short stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in April, Thurman found his way to the Patriots. The team signed the then-23-year-old to a one-year contract that will hit its salary cap with $495,000 but does not include any guarantees. Needless to say that the deal reflects Thurman’s standing on New England’s roster: he is on the roster bubble and needs to fight for a spot on the team or — more realistically — its practice squad.
In order to do that, the second-year man will need to crack the defensive tackle rotation first. This alone will be a challenge considering that the Patriots have four other players fighting for depth spots behind roster locks Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler and Mike Pennel. And all four of them either have considerably more upside (Byron Cowart), versatility (Ufomba Kamalu) or vastly more experience (Danny Shelton, David Parry) than Thurman.
Therefore, it would not be a surprise if New England opted to part ways with the Houston product during early-September’s roster cutdowns. While there are always training camp surprises, of course, the odds simply do not favor Thurman this summer.