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 offseason acquisitions.
Name: Shilique Calhoun
Position: Defensive edge
Jersey number: 74
Opening day age: 27
Size: 6’4, 260 lbs.
2018 review: Shilique Calhoun’s third season in the NFL began with him making the Oakland Raiders’ active roster and appearing in the team’s season opener. However, the former third-round draft pick was released just two days after the game — one during which he played 12 defensive as a rotational edge defender — and signed to the Raiders’ practice squad. His stint there was a short one, as he was promoted again just five days later.
Calhoun remained on Oakland’s 53-man squad for the next eleven weeks, during which he appeared in six games. When active, the Michigan State product saw inconsistent playing time as his usage as a depth ‘elephant’ defender — a linebacker/end hybrid — continued. As such, he played a total of 126 of a possible 638 defensive snaps (19.7%) between his reactivation to the roster and being placed on injured reserve in early December.
During his time on the field, Calhoun saw considerable action against the run and the pass and proved himself a serviceable but not exactly outstanding player. A better run defender than pass rusher, he registered 10 tackles in the ground game (2 of which for a loss of yardage) compared to 1 quarterback hit. His biggest contributions to the Raiders may therefore have come in the kicking game.
Playing 116 special teams snaps (of a possible 312; 37.2%), Calhoun saw action on three of Oakland’s kick coverage teams — kickoff and punt return, punt coverage — and also was an irregular member of the club’s rushing teams on place kicks. And even though he did not register any special teams statistics, Calhoun was able to prove his value to the club before his season came to a premature end because of a neck injury.
2019 preview: After the season, Calhoun entered free agency and remained on the open market until the Patriots picked him up in early May. Joining the team on a one-year, $720,000 that includes no guaranteed money, the 27-year-old came to New England with little expectations. So far during training camp, however, he is exceeding them and appears to be a realistic candidate to carve out a role as its fifth defensive edge.
In order to earn a spot on the roster behind projected locks Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise Jr, John Simon and Chase Winovich, Calhoun will need to fight off third-year man Derek Rivers — he himself having a solid training camp. The battle will remain a tight one, but if the first-year Patriot can build on his first few practices and continues to be a disruptive presence it would not be a surprise to see New England go with him over Rivers.
One of the deciding factors might therefore very well be special teams: if Calhoun can use his experience in the kicking game, he might have a leg up on his competition for a spot on the team. If not, however, Calhoun’s tenure with the Patriots might come to an end after only four months — even though he currently appears to be doing everything in his power to prevent this from happening and revitalize his career.