The New England Patriots, who are currently in their middle of their 2019 training camp, have 90 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 backup offensive linemen.
Name: James Ferentz
Jersey number: 66
Opening day age: 30
Size: 6’2, 300 lbs.
2018 review: After spending the entire 2017 season on the Patriots’ practice squad, the team signed James Ferentz to a futures contract that allowed him to return for the 2018 campaign. And his playing time was again limited last year, his second season in New England can be seen as a step up for Ferentz: he spent time on the active roster and saw some in-game playing time, and ended the year with a Super Bowl ring.
Before getting promoted to the 53-man squad in early November, Ferentz saw most of his action during preseason: he appeared in all four of the Patriots’ exhibition contests, and was on the field for 136 of a possible 283 offensive snaps (48.1%). Playing primarily center but also seeing action at both guard spots, the veteran looked good as both a pass protector and a run blocker — he actually finished preseason as Pro Football Focus’ top-rated center.
Despite his success during New England’s exhibition games, the team released the versatile veteran during final roster cutdowns. He was signed to the practice squad the very next day, however, where he spent the first eight weeks of the season. Despite his promotion to the active team, his usage did not drastically change: Ferentz was still a depth option whose primary role was serving as the center on the scout team.
As such, he was active for just two of a possible eleven games: in week nine against the Green Bay Packers, Ferentz played five snaps on the place kick protection units; the next week against the Tennessee Titans, he played three more on special teams as well as eight on offense. For the rest of the year, his role was that of a backup and practice player — one earning player of the week honors on three separate occasions.
2019 preview: Ferentz enters his third year with the Patriots in a familiar role: he is on the roster bubble but appears to be in a solid position to earn a backup spot along the interior offensive line to his versatility and experience — two features on display the entire training camp: with starting center David Andrews limited and left guard Joe Thuney regularly moving over to the tackle spot, Ferentz saw prominent practice reps with the top unit.
If his practice performance is any indication, he should at least have a realistic shot to earn a role on the 53-man squad. A lot will depend on the offensive tackle depth, however: if the Patriots find a suitable backup to Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon — either Yodny Cajuste or somebody else — Joe Thuney would remain on the interior. This, in turn, could prompt the team to keep just two interior depth options.
With one spot already taken by fourth-round rookie Hjalte Froholdt, Ferentz and Ted Karras may have to battle for the other. Karras, given his superior in-game experience would then be considered the favorite. Needless to say that the competition and the general roster composition up front will be interesting to watch the next few weeks.