The New England Patriots, who will kick off their 2019 training camp later today, have 89 players on their active roster at the moment. 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 rotational defensive linemen.
Name: Keionta Davis
Position: Defensive tackle/defensive edge
Jersey number: 58
Opening day age: 25
Size: 6’4, 280 lbs.
2018 review: After spending his entire 2017 rookie season on the non-football injury list due to medical concerns — he was diagnosed with a bulging disc in his neck during the pre-draft process — Keionta Davis returned to the field for the Patriots’ spring practices. Participating in full capacity, he was able to steadily improve and after solid training camp and preseason performances able to carve out a role on New England’s 53-man squad.
Serving mostly as a rotational depth option behind Trey Flowers, Adrian Clayborn, Deatrich Wise Jr. and John Simon, the second-year defensive edge appeared in just six of a possible nineteen games over the course of the 2018 season. As a result, Davis played only 182 combined snaps on defense (of 1,231; 14.%) and a mere 2 in the kicking game — all of his action came during the regular season, and he was a healthy scratch during the playoffs.
The former undrafted free agent was at best up-and-down when on the field, which explains his limited usage down the stretch. While he did show some flashes as a rotational pass rusher early during the season, he never was able to quite find his footing and consistently perform when it came to producing pressure — Davis finished the year with 4 quarterback disruptions (1 hit, 3 hurries) — or properly setting the edge in the running game.
That all being said, his second year in the league can still be classified as a success for Davis: he came back after missing all of 2017, was able to earn his way onto the Patriots’ deep roster, and finished the season as a world champion. His on-field performances may have been nothing to write home about, but they were a step in the right direction in the grand scheme of things.
2019 preview: Keeping all that in mind, Davis finds himself in a difficult situation entering this year’s training camp. While he did show his potential in spurts during the 2018 campaign, he was unable to carve out a consistent role on New England’s defense. If he fails to do that again this summer, his outlook of making the roster for a second straight year will not exactly be rosy. There simply is too much competition at the defensive edge.
After all, three of the group’s current nine players can already be classified as roster locks: Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise Jr. and rookie Chase Winovich will all be on the team after cutdown day. John Simon, meanwhile, appears to be the frontrunner to earn the number four role and offer veteran rotational depth just like he did last season. This would leave a maximum of two open spots, and Davis needs to make the second-year jump to earn one of them.
If he can do that and improve especially in the running game, the 25-year-old could be able to outlast his competition (Derek Rivers, Trent Harris, Shilique Calhoun). If not, however, Davis would still be eligible to be moved to the Patriots’ practice squad. Therefore, it would not be a surprise to see him remain in New England for another year — if he is able to meet the challenge at hand.