With Stephon Gilmore traded to the Carolina Panthers, and with Jonathan Jones suffering a season-ending shoulder injury shortly thereafter, the New England Patriots turned to their practice squad to bolster their cornerback depth. After already seeing action in two previous games, Myles Bryant was officially elevated to the active roster in mid-October.
In the two contests since his promotion, the second-year defender has been on the field for a combined 94 of 124 defensive snaps (75.8%): Bryant spent the majority of his time filling Jones’ old role in the slot, but he also moved back to a free safety alignment on occasion.
While not perfect, he has played some quality football. That did not come as a surprise to his position coach, Mike Pellegrino.
“Anybody that’s heard me talk about Myles has heard me say nothing but great things about him,” Pellegrino said earlier this week. “His work ethic’s been great from the beginning until right now. Last week I talked about him asking questions about the game plan last year when he was inactive. Being extremely engaged, you love to see that as a coach. He’s a guy you love to coach because he asks all the right questions.”
Bryant originally joined the Patriots as an undrafted rookie free agent last year and performed well enough over the summer to be kept via the practice squad. The youngster eventually found his way onto the 53-man roster and went on to appear in nine regular season games.
Playing 156 of a possible 1,017 defensive snaps (15.3%) as well as 39 more in the kicking game (of 399; 9.8%), the rookie proved himself a valuable and versatile member of New England’s defense: regularly moving between cornerback and safety alignments, Bryant held his own against NFL-caliber opposition.
This year, he again started on the practice squad. After two game-day elevations, he eventually joined the active team as it was looking to replace the injured Jones.
Bryant has not looked back, and he has left his position coach impressed.
“He’s on top of something where you say, ‘Hey, look at this play. Do you see this right here?’ ‘Yeah, Coach, I saw it yesterday,’” Pellegrino said. “He had already watched the third down, he’s all over it before we even get to Thursday. And then you’re just watching him practice, the guy makes plays. The guy’s a football player, no matter his size. He defines, ‘It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.’ I love coaching him. Great guy.”
Bryant has quickly become a fixture in the Patriots secondary. The 23-year-old is therefore following the proud tradition of undrafted cornerbacks making a name for themselves in New England.
Pellegrino has a simple explanation for the success unheralded players such as Bryant have enjoyed in the past.
“Bill says it all the time: Doesn’t matter where you’re drafted; doesn’t matter how you got here; you’re here now, make the most of your opportunity,” he said before quickly turning the conversation back to Bryant again.
“He really embraced that from the get-go. You get what you earn around here — you hear that all the time — and he’s gotten everything he’s earned.”
While not yet on the same level as previous UDFA finds Malcolm Butler, J.C. Jackson or Jonathan Jones, Bryant has played some encouraging football. His outlook is a positive one based on his performance so far, and Pellegrino also seems to feel good about where he is headed.
“I’m super excited, super proud of him for what he’s done so far,” he said. “More to come.”