The New England Patriots’ practice squad to open the 2022 season features some interesting names.
Linebacker Cameron McGrone received some considerable offseason hype; running back J.J. Taylor looked good in preseason, as did wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey; fellow wideout Lynn Bowden Jr. offers an intriguing skillset; cornerback Terrance Mitchell has considerable starting experience in the NFL. The most recent addition, former first-round wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, is a notable signing as well.
Will any of them turn into regular contributors moving forward, though? The jury is still out on that, but the numbers do not appear to work in their favor.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said as much himself last week. Asked about how increased practice squad sizes have and modified rules have impacted roster flexibility, he made sure to point out that the practice squad offers depth and players to run practice with — but rarely more than that.
“The practice squad is the practice squad; it’s a way to keep some additional players around to help you practice and possibly develop,” he said. “You’re talking about the 60th to the 70th players, I don’t know how many of those players have a dramatic impact on any team in the league year-in and year-out. Do they provide some depth? Yes. Do they develop into big players? I’m not sure how many would fall into that category. My guess is not very many, but there are probably a couple here or there.
“I think a lot of those, the end of it isn’t overly significant. But it’s part of your roster, and management, and practicing and fundamentally working through your team. But locker room’s more crowded, training room’s more crowded, more players on the practice field, more players in the meeting room, more people to manage with the hope that they’ll be able to give you some depth. It is what it is.”
A look through Patriots practice squads of the past confirm the notion that only a handful of players actually develop into contributors beyond the practice level.
Not counting kicker Nick Folk, who was sent to the practice squad last year as part of roster gymnastics around cutdown day, only five former practice squad members were able to develop into reliable multi-year starters: offensive linemen Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell, running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, fullback James Develin and special teamer Brandon King.
A slightly bigger portion of players such as O-linemen Tom Ashworth, Russ Hochstein, Brandon Gorin and James Ferentz became part-time starters and valuable backups at one point down the line. Ferentz, for example, is still with the Patriots: he was signed to the practice squad last week.
The vast majority of players who were on the Patriots practice squad through the years, however, has had a limited impact. Does that mean that McGrone, Taylor or Treadwell will follow their footsteps and ultimately not amount to much?
Not necessarily, but the odds are not working in their favor either.