The New England Patriots’ top-ranked defense is filled with well-established talent on all three levels, but it has also seen its fair share of contributions from lesser known players. One of those flying under-the-radar is defensive tackle Daniel Ekuale.
A member of the Patriots’ practice squad, Ekuale has appeared in three games so far this season. While only playing a combined 39 defensive snaps, he has already registered two sacks — tied for fourth most on the team — as well as three tackles.
His role as a fifth defensive tackle may not be a prominent one, but he has made the most of his opportunities so far. His teammates also have noticed.
“The interior played their butts off,” said linebacker Matthew Judon following the Patriots’ win in Buffalo on Monday. “[Davon Godchaux], [Lawrence Guy], Daniel, [Christian] Barmore, Carl [Davis]. All those guys played their butts off.”
A Covid-19 replacement player, Ekuale was elevated from the practice squad before the game against the Bills. Taking the field for eight total snaps, he had a pair of tackles as well as a sack.
“Always ready when his number’s called. He came up from the practice squad twice, had two big-time sacks in the Jets game and in the Buffalo game,” said Davon Godchaux about the 27-year-old.
“It’s just kind of, ‘Stay ready whenever your number’s called.’ Bill called his number this week and he was ready to go. Had two tackles and a sack — I mean, that’s awesome. A guy who, even when he’s on the practice squad, he’s always in the meetings, he’s always listening, he’s always writing down things, so when his number’s called you see great things like that.”
Ekuale originally entered the league as a rookie free agent in 2018. After spending two seasons with the Cleveland Browns and another with the Jacksonville Jaguars, he joined the Patriots’ practice squad in September. The Washington State product has been a member of the developmental roster ever since, but has been called upon on three different occasions.
Ekuale was added to the game-day roster in Weeks 7 and 8 as a standard elevation. Even though he was no longer eligible to be brought up to the active team this way — clubs are only allowed to elevate a practice squad players twice per season — he was given a third chance after safety Kyle Dugger and running back J.J. Taylor were sent to the Coronavirus reserve list: Ekuale, as noted above, served as a replacement player.
It remains to be seen what his future holds now that his standard elevations are exhausted and both Dugger and Taylor could come off the Covid-19 list soon. Nonetheless, he has already made some positive contributions to the 2021 Patriots. Not bad for a practice squad player.