With Week 1 just 10 days away the New England Patriots are looking to get contributions from every player on the roster in some capacity. Some will contribute more than others but do not be surprised when the following five make an impact in 2022 — despite seemingly flying under the radar compared to their teammates.
S/ST Brenden Schooler
Schooler signed with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in early May and no one really knew who he was. Fast forward to now and he has made the roster and is expected to have a prominent role on the special teams unit. The addition of Schooler led to the subtraction of special teams ace Justin Bethel, with the rookie essentially taking his roster spot.
Schooler registered some big hits on special teams in the preseason and even recorded an interception while he was playing safety. Team captain and elite special teamer Matthew Slater raved about him throughout camp and will now get to see snaps alongside him.
Schooler will be on the field for special teams snaps so do not be surprised when you see him force a turnover or down a ball inside the 5-yard line a couple times throughout the year for New England.
DB Jabrill Peppers
Peppers was signed to a one-year free agency deal in March, after a torn ACL ended his 2021 season early. The Michigan product was a first-round pick in 2017 for the Cleveland Browns before being sent to the New York Giants in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade. He played for Joe Judge in New York; with Judge back in New England the connection certainly helped Peppers find his way to the Patriots on a prove-it type of deal.
Peppers is not slated to be a starter on the unofficial depth chart but will definitely have a role in the New England defense and on special teams. His versatility allows him to play both safety positions, some slot corner, inside the box as a rover and pretty much anywhere on special teams. Peppers will play a lot of different spots for the Patriots this season, meaning his impact could be significant.
OLB/DE Anfernee Jennings
The Alabama product was a third-round pick for the Patriots back in 2020 but did not play much his rookie season. He missed all of 2021 after being placed on season-ending injured reserve before last year’s cutdown day.
Jennings has seen extended snaps this preseason and has even played with the starters at times. He could be in a specialty pass rushing role this season across from Matthew Judon. This could lead to a major impact as we could see solid sack production from the edge rushers. Jennings figures to have a role in the Patriots’ front seven this year and could open up some eyes.
LB Jahlani Tavai
Tavai was signed to the Patriots practice squad last September, and was elevated to the 53-man roster later that season. Similar to the Peppers situation, the former second-round draft pick played for Matt Patricia on the Detroit Lions before they both found their way to New England last year. He was primarily used on special teams, but his role figures to grow this season.
Similar to Jennings, Tavai played a lot this preseason with the starters. He should see a rotational role in the middle of the Patriots defense while also being a key special teamer. If the former second round could unlock his potential, he will play a major role in the Patriots linebacker room and make a significant impact.
CB Jack Jones
The Patriots drafted Jones in the fourth round of the 2022 draft out of Arizona State. The former Sun Devil has stood out this preseason and may be earning himself a major role in the New England secondary. He played 83 coverage snaps across the three games and allowed just two catches for 18 yards along with three pass breakups. That was good enough to earn him a 81.8 coverage grade at Pro Football Focus, and may have cost Terrance Mitchell his roster spot.
Jones was going to make the roster either way based on his draft status, but his impressive play made Mitchell expendable. The veteran corner is now on the Patriots practice squad while the rookie is gearing up to at least play a role on special teams and possibly take over a starting corner spot at some point in the season.
If he does become a starter for the Patriots, he will have a major impact on this team late in the season as it will play a grueling schedule of great quarterbacks to end the year.