With less than one month to go until they are scheduled to report to training camp, the New England Patriots currently have the league-allowed maximum of 90 players under contract. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive roster cutdowns on September 5 and ultimately make the active team. Over the course of spring and summer, just like we have in years past, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots keep their dynasty alive in Year One after Tom Brady.
Today, the series continues with a member of New England’s undrafted rookie class.
Name: Nick Coe
Position: Defensive edge/Outside linebacker
Jersey number: TBD
Opening day age: 23
Size: 6-foot-5, 280 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2022 (2023 RFA)
What is his experience? Coe’s experience in the NFL is quasi non-existent: he arrived in the league as a rookie free agent signing by the Patriots after not hearing his name called during the draft. But even if he had been drafted, his pro-level experience at this point in time would only consist of virtual workouts as well New England’s rookie developmental program. But even though Coe has yet to take the practice field due to the Coronavirus pandemic, he does have some experience playing high-level football on his résumé.
After all, he spent the last four years at Auburn University. After redshirting during his true freshman season, Coe went on to carve out a versatile role along the team’s defensive line. Regularly being used both on the interior and on the edge, he appeared in 36 combined games for the school with 12 starts — 10 of which during his 2018 campaign. While Coe did register 55 quarterback pressures along the way, including nine sacks, injuries and disciplinary issues marked his time with the Tigers.
What did his 2019 season look like? Coe showed some promising production over the course of his 2018 sophomore season and earned a starting outside linebacker role, but was unable to build on it the following year. Quite the opposite was the case, actually. In part because he found himself in head coach Gus Malzahn’s doghouse, he lost his job as a starter in 2019 and had to come off the bench in 10 of the 11 games he participated in; he also was forced to sit out one contest due to disciplinary reasons.
But while Coe’s playing time therefore went down compared to the previous year, he still managed to increase the number of quarterback disruptions he had by registering five hits as well as 15 hurries (versus 19 total pressures during his sophomore campaign) for a pressure rate of 8.8 percent on his 228 pass rushing snaps. That said, he failed to come up with even a single sack after notching a team-high seven of them in 2018 and also was fairly inconsistent as a run defender both on the edge and the interior of the line.
Despite his disappointing 2019 season, however, Coe decided to forgo his final year of eligibility and try his luck in the NFL draft (he also sat out Auburn’s bowl game appearance in preparation for entering the next level). He was invited to the scouting combine and also able to participate in his pro day, but eventually did not generate plenty of momentum heading into the league’s annual college player selection meeting.
What is his projected role? Coe wore numerous hats at Auburn, and it will be interesting to see how the Patriots opt to use him in their 3-4-based defensive scheme. Given his length and the fact that he was measured at 280 pounds during the combine, he could be used as a stand-up outside linebacker or situational pass rusher. That said, he also might be asked to play with his hands in the dirt from time to time and align as a 3-technique end — similar to how New England opted to employ Deatrich Wise Jr. in 2019.
What is his special teams value? Like most undrafted rookies, Coe will likely have to leave his mark in the kicking game if he wants to make New England’s roster or practice squad. This means that he has to be able to contribute on field goal and extra point blocking units, while possibly also establishing himself as a down-lineman on punt return teams. If Coe can show his special teams value, his chances of sticking around will increase.
Does he have positional versatility? Coe was used all over the defensive front seven at Auburn despite his demotion to a backup role during the 2019 season. Despite his change in status, he saw regular action playing numerous defensive line techniques — most prominently either as a 5- or 7-technique edge — and even was irregularly employed as an off-the-ball linebacker. As noted above, Coe might play an edge role in New England’s scheme but could also be asked to kick inside on select downs.
What is his salary cap situation? One of 15 undrafted free agents to join the Patriots after this year’s draft, Coe signed a standard three-year pact with the team — one that includes total guarantees of $40,000: he has a $35,000 salary guarantee and also received a $5,000 signing bonus prorated over the length of the deal. The contract, which carries a salary cap number of just $611,666, is reflective of his uncertain status on New England’s roster.
What is his roster outlook? While the Patriots did lose some considerable front seven personnel over the course of the offseason — both Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins left the club in free agency — Coe is facing an uphill climb to make the roster: he does have good size and strength, but is raw as both a pass rusher and a run defender. Unless he shows some considerable growth and can also leave his off-field issues behind, his best bet of staying in New England appears to be the practice squad.