Every year in camp, there are players you grow attached to, or root for. Sometimes they make the team and stick around, like Malcolm Butler, and sometimes they disappear, never to be heard from again, like Ralph Webb. In sports, we love rooting for the underdog, and that’s why we enjoy watching these bubble guys. (I know Bill Belichick has never heard of the bubble, but I’m hoping you have.) So, with that in mind, here’s the list of the players I’m rooting for to make the New England Patriots’ 53-man roster:
Phillip Dorsett, WR – Most beat writers seem to think that Dorsett isn’t actually on the bubble, and I hope they’re right. He has a similar skillset to a few other guys on the roster, but he’s one of the only receivers that Tom Brady has any chemistry with right now. With Julian Edelman making his preseason debut only Thursday night, Ben Watson suspended the first four games, and Demaryius Thomas and Josh Gordon still getting up to speed, Dorsett could be an important piece for the Patriots early in the season.
Jakobi Meyers, WR – If the preseason had been two weeks long, Meyers would be a lock to make the team, but it isn’t. He looked completely lost running with Brady and the first-team offense. There were multiple plays where he was in the wrong spot or made the wrong read, which he’s going to need to clean up if he wants to make this team. With that being said, he’s been the most consistent offensive weapon all preseason, and has completely dominated every backup he has faced so far. We saw it with Webb last season, who dominated at stretches in the preseason but ended up getting cut anyway. Here’s hoping Meyers has a different ending this weekend.
Gunner Olszewski, WR/PR – Gunner is the ultimate underdog. He’s a graduate of Division-II Bemidji State, who played defense his entire career, but is making the switch to offense in the NFL. His offensive skills are definitely not there yet, but he has been electric on punt returns. I don’t know if that will be enough to keep him on the roster, but I really hope so. He seems like a guy that will get scooped up by someone on waivers, simply because of his explosiveness, and the fact that he’s so new to offense.
Braxton Berrios, WR – Hey, it’s another wide receiver! It feels like the whole depth chart is on this list, and most of it actually is. Berrios is the prototypical Patriots slot receiver. He hasn’t shown a ton during camp, but he did run a pretty nice whip route to convert a fourth down. I’m also a little biased since my dad helped announce the selection on NFL Network. Unfortunately, I don’t think the Lane luck will be enough, as it looks like Berrios may be headed to the practice squad. Here’s hoping, if that’s the case, that he makes it there and no one else claims him.
Calvin Munson, LB – Munson is an old-school linebacker. He just crushes anyone that’s around him, and he’s been a lot of fun to watch this preseason. He also does a pretty nice job on special teams, so especially with Brandon King being lost for the season, it’s possible there will be a spot for him. Munson is far from a complete linebacker, and with the depth they have this year, he will not be pushing for playing time. But he’s a fun player to watch.
Byron Cowart, DT – Cowart was a player I was excited about from the moment the Patriots drafted him. The No. 1 overall recruit in his high school class, he wasn’t able to get right at Auburn, but after transferring, played pretty well at Maryland last season. It’s carried over this preseason, consistently wreaking havoc in opposing backfields and dominating blockers. In fact, Cowart’s been so good they cut veteran Mike Pennel last week, who I assumed would be close to a starter for New England this season. Cowart’s spot isn’t guaranteed, but I think there’s a good chance he makes the team, and maybe even has an impact this season.
Scooby Wright, LB – The hair. The motor. The name. What’s not to love? I’m not sure the odds of him actually making the team aren’t very good, but it was fun to get to watch him in one football game for the Patriots, at least.
Obi Melifonwu, DB – Melifonwu grew up in Grafton, Mass., and played college ball at UConn, so he has some ties to the area. He also emerged as a solid special-teamer and good locker-room guy after the Patriots acquired him last season. With the sheer depth in the defensive backfield, there’s serious doubt that he will make the team, but I’m rooting for him anyway.
Malik Gant, S – The undrafted rookie left Thursday night’s game due to injury, but there’s no denying Gant is fun to watch. He plays downhill, and is a force in the running game. His coverage could use some work, but he could definitely develop into a core special-teams guy. Here’s hoping that Gant comes back healthy next season.
There’s obviously no way that the Patriots will be able to keep all the players on this list, especially since I have four receivers, and some may end up on the practice squad. But others may end up on a different team altogether. Some of those guys may never start, but others, like Cre’Von LeBlanc and Kenny Moore might go on to be solid players in the league. Even though they won’t be doing that for the Patriots, you can still appreciate them from afar. And sometimes, they stick around and make an impact right here in New England. And even if your favorite bubble guy doesn’t make the team out of camp, there’s still a chance.
Pat is a host of The Patriot Nation Podcast
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