As the New England Patriots saw their roster dwindle to 53 players on Tuesday, the team shifted their attention onto building their practice squad. Of the 25 cuts from the initial roster, 12 eventually found themselves back to Foxborough via the practice squad while three outsiders have joined them.
With the new rules from 2020 still in play, each team’s practice squad now consist of up to 16 players. The eligibility rules are also more relaxed, as clubs can carry up to six vested veterans with no limit on accrued NFL seasons. Many of New England’s practice squad players should expect to see time on the active roster throughout the season, as well.
While the practice squad is certainly not set in stone — New England still has one open spot remaining — let’s meet the Patriots’ initial developmental roster.
DB Myles Bryant: Despite dealing with injuries near the end of camp, Bryant was considered a surprise cut on cutdown day. He impressed at times in his rookie season and provides a versatile option at both cornerback and safety for the Patriots secondary.
TE Matt LaCosse: LaCosse got off to a strong start this summer before a hit by Philadelphia Eagles defender Derek Barnett in joint practice sidelined him for the rest of the preseason. With some health concerns already at the top of the Patriots’ tight end depth chart, LaCosse provides some capable veteran depth.
OL Alex Redmond: The Patriots crowded and talented interior unit resulted in Redmond being left off the team’s 53-man roster. However, the veteran has 32 career starts in his career, providing some valuable experience if needed.
WR Tre Nixon: Despite being a seventh-round selection, Nixon drew some attention across New England as he was Ernie Adams’ final draft selection. His summer did not go as planned as the rookie missed several weeks due to injuries. The speedster did show some promise when healthy and will now have a year to get healthy and develop his game.
DT Bill Murray: Murray finds his way back on the Patriots’ practice squad for the second consecutive season. The 2020 undrafted rookie had a solid preseason and training camp, but could not crack the 53-man roster in a crowded defensive line group.
WR Kristian Wilkerson: After all of the 2020 season of New England’s practice squad, Wilkerson seemed to be trending towards a roster spot as training camp started. He slowly faded down the stretch, but has shown some serious promise at receiver to pair with versatility on special teams. With N’Keal Harry now on IR, Wilkerson could be closing in on an elevation.
CB D’Angelo Ross: Ross spent the majority of his first two years on either the Patriots’ practice squad or injured reserve. He’s now back for a third year. The 5-foot-9 corner had quite the preseason game against the New York Giants on Sunday, hauling in an interception and registering a third-down stop.
QB Brian Hoyer: As the Patriots’ 53-man roster consisted of just rookie Mac Jones at the quarterback position, it is not a surprise to see Hoyer quickly back with the team. Hoyer will likely be elevated to the main roster at some point, or the Patriots could wait and elevate him for the first two weeks of the regular season under the new rules — like they did at the kicker position last year.
LB Jahlani Tavai: The first reported outside member of the organization on this year’s practice squad, the former 2019 second-round pick from Detroit is quite familiar with Matt Patricia. Tavai fits the bill of a typical Patriots off-the-ball linebacker with his plus size (6-foot-2, 250 pounds).
LB Tashawn Bower: Bower returns for his third season with New England’s practice squad. He continues to develop and is a perfect fit for a Patriots’ EDGE defender. He uses his size nicely and is capable on setting the edge in the run game.
FB Ben Mason: Another outside acquisition, as the Michigan product was a fifth-round pick from the Baltimore Ravens in the spring. A big, tough fullback, Mason will provide some depth and competition to Jakob Johnson. Mason also has experience playing special teams.
K Nick Folk: It was somewhat a surprise to see Folk left off the team’s 53-man roster, but the team believes undrafted free agent Quinn Nordin has some serious potential. Folk has been super consistent since arriving to Foxborough in 2019 and will provide quality insurance for the rookie.
OL Will Sherman: The team’s rookie sixth-rounder out of Colorado, Sherman will stick around and continue to develop as tackle-to-guard option.
OL James Ferentz: As both David Andrews and Ted Karras missed time throughout the preseason, Ferentz often got extended snaps with the first-string offensive line. The five-year veteran provides depth along the interior.
QB Garrett Gilbert: It was expected that New England would add an additional quarterback behind the rookie Jones and the veteran Hoyer. Gilbert spent time on the Patriots’ practice squad at the end of 2014 and remained until minicamp in 2015. He made his first career start last year with the Dallas Cowboys, but was released on Tuesday.