Opportunities did not come easy for Devin Ross over the first two years of his career. A former undrafted rookie, he is currently on his third team in as many years. As opposed to his stints with the Tennessee Titans and Philadelphia Eagles, however, he seems poised to make the one with the New England Patriots count.
Trying to make a wide receiver group that is set at the top but has plenty of room for players to earn depth spots, Ross has thrown his hat into the ring in impressive fashion this summer. After a week of full-team practices — including three sessions in full pads — the 23-year-old is one of the standout performers: he has made some big plays during team and individual drills, and has been competitive time and again.
His performance so far has also caught the eye of head coach Bill Belichick, who spoke about Ross during a media conference call on Wednesday.
“Devin’s a hard-working kid,” Belichick said. “When we got him last year, I’m not sure that he was 100 percent healthy. He was healthy, but I think he has gained... Plus, he’s had an offseason of supervised training, even though it’s not been supervised in the building. I think he’s improved from this year to last year. We’ll see how things go here, but he looks like he’s ready to go and ready to compete. We’ll see how that all comes together.”
So far, it has come together nicely. Through the first four days of practice, Ross has caught nine passes during team drills and has done everything in his power to shake the roster long shot label that was given to him heading into training camp.
“He’s a good football player,” the NFL’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Stephon Gilmore, said about Ross earlier this week. “He goes hard each and every day, and he competes just like all those guys over there — they are giving us good looks. Going against each other every day, that’s what we need to make each other better and push each other. It’s still early in training camp, so I’m looking forward to covering these guys and pushing each other.”
As for the man himself, he is just trying to take advantage of every chance he can get to show the team that he can contribute.
“My receiver coach mentioned that every rep we get is like a piece of gold and I took that to heart. I feel like it’s a true statement,” Ross told reporters following Wednesday’s practice. “Every time you get a chance to go out there it’s a great opportunity to be able to put something great out there and make a name for yourself and show your coaches and teammates what you can do. I feel like every opportunity to go out there is special for me, so I just make sure I go as hard as I can no matter how I’m feeling. I know it’s a big opportunity and it’s great to go out there and try and build trust and confidence.”
Ross originally arrived in New England last October, ending what had been a tumultuous few months for him.
After finishing his rookie season on the Titans’ practice squad and signing a futures contract with the team, Ross was let go by the team in mid-May. It took two weeks for him to find a new club: later that same month, he agreed to a one-year, $495,000 contract with the Eagles. He did not earn a single cent of the guarantee-free deal, however, as Philadelphia decided to part ways with Ross again shortly before the start of its training camp in July.
After a three-month stint on the open market following his release from the Eagles, the Patriots brought Ross on board. He spent 11 weeks on the developmental roster, and impressed the team enough to earn a futures contract for the 2020 season — giving him another chance to leave his mark on the team and find a permanent home in the NFL.
“I was very excited to be able to sign back and to just have the opportunity to come back to this great place,” Ross said. “Last year, I just loved being the building — the environment is amazing, my coaches and teammates are very amazing. Everybody’s so fun and just good to be around, it’s just a great atmosphere. That makes me even more excited to go out there and play to make sure I can do whatever I can to stay here and have fun with it as well. It’s just a blessing to be able to play football and be here. I love it.”
If Ross wants to stick around and possibly even earn a roster spot alongside wide receiver locks Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry, he will need to continue building on his early-camp momentum — one that he was apparently able to establish thanks to the Patriots’ virtual offseason work and his experience in the team’s offensive system.
“That helped me a lot being able to learn everything, learn the whole scheme and be able to go out there and play fast and just know everything and how to read coverages,” he said. “It’s all just coming together and being able to get repetitions at it is definitely helping a lot.”