The third and final week of preseason is underway for the New England Patriots. On Monday, they will hold their first practice in Las Vegas before joining forces with the Raiders for a set of joint practices on both Tuesday and Wednesday. On Friday, the two teams will then play their final exhibition game of the summer.
Hanging over all of those are the roster cutdown deadlines. By Tuesday afternoon, the Patriots and the NFL’s other 31 teams will need to have their rosters down to 80. One week later, on Aug. 30, the final roster reduction will take place: teams need to trim from 80 to 53.
With two preseason games in the books, we have a pretty good understanding who might end up on that 53-man team in New England. Some players have been locks from the get-go, while others have worked their way into the conversation. Among those are some under-the-radar players who, for one reason or another, have not gotten considerable attention but might just end up surviving the upcoming waves of cutdowns.
Let’s take a look at five falling into that category.
CB Shaun Wade
With the Patriots having seen considerable turnover at their cornerback position during the offseason, the sophomore entered the summer as a forgotten man of sorts. Slowly but steadily, however, the versatile Wade has played his way into the rotation — and possibly onto the roster when all is said and done.
Just take a look at the numbers he has posted in preseason. Playing 81 snaps over the first two games, Wade allowed just three catches for 30 yards on nine targets; he also registered an interception and two pass-breakups. With Malcolm Butler on injured reserve and Terrance Mitchell not quite keeping up his early-camp momentum, the former fifth-round draft pick has a realistic shot at sticking around.
LB Jahlani Tavai
Tavai’s performance against the Carolina Panthers on Friday night was not necessarily one to write home about, but it was still noteworthy. After all, the former second-round draft pick, who joined the Patriots last year, was running with the starters — something that has happened before in camp.
Obviously, the reasons why the coaches were giving him an extended look are unclear from the outside. However, it appears his outlook might be more promising than one would expect based on the offseason hype surrounding fellow depth linebacker Cameron McGrone.
“A great player, a great player,” fellow linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley said about him after last week’s game. “Jahlani came with us kind of in the middle of last year and he’s been great for us. We just look for him to just constantly get better, but he’s definitely on the right track. He’s a hell of a player as well as off the field a good person to have in the locker room, so shoutout to Jahlani.”
WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey
We already talked about first-year Patriot Humphrey in these parts of the internet before, pointing out that he will not be going down without putting up a fight. Well, he might not be going down at all.
Not only has Humphrey caught a team-high 11 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown in two preseason games, he also left his mark in the kicking game. Most importantly for his case, however, is the broken collarbone suffered by second-round rookie Tyquan Thornton. The injury might further add to his chances of eventually making the team as its fifth wide receiver behind Jakobi Meyers, DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor.
On top of it all, there is the potential of Humphrey offering depth at tight end as well — something Bill Belichick alluded to after the game when he called him a “tight end-ish type of guy.” For what it is worth, his blocking did look the part versus Carolina.
Humphrey's shown excellent effort as a run blocker, both near and away from the point of attack.— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) August 20, 2022
Looked really good as the crack guy on toss plays last night, which was N'Keal Harry's role at times last season and is similar to Thornton's last week pic.twitter.com/kdqvRGwiW5
DT Carl Davis Jr.
The Patriots’ young defensive linemen have gotten a lot of attention with rookies Sam Roberts and LaBryan Ray both having some good moments in preseason. At the end of the day, however, it would not be a surprise to see New England keep veteran Carl Davis over at least one if not both of them.
Davis might not be the flashiest of players, but his 6-foot-5, 320-pound frame allows him to function as a big-bodied two-gapper controlling the line of scrimmage. The Patriots do have Davon Godchaux and Lawrence Guy to fill a similar role at the starter level, but the depth behind them is shallow — shallow enough for Davis to possibly stick around.
C Kody Russey
With David Andrews not going anywhere anytime soon, the Patriots are well-set at the center position. However, the depth behind the veteran and the entire interior offensive line, for that matter, is somewhat unclear at the moment.
Enter undrafted rookie free agent Kody Russey. The Houston product has lined up exclusively at center against both New York and Carolina, but he does have some experience playing elsewhere along the O-line as well: his first two starts back in 2017 came at the Bulldogs’ left guard position.
He eventually moved to the center spot and permanently stayed there, but he should be able to work all three interior spots in the NFL. If he can do that and continue to stay on his upwards trajectory, the Patriots might just opt to keep him around over some of the other options they have available — most prominently long-time backup James Ferentz, who had a rather rough outing with the starters on Friday.