But it is a star-studded one.
In addition to strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash Jr., here’s a glance through the four roster connections heading into the 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff at AT&T Stadium.
Brandin Cooks, wide receiver — Traded a four times, tying an NFL record, Cooks has surpassed 1,000 receiving yards with four different teams. Count the Patriots among them. In the weeks leading up to the 2017 draft, New England acquired Oregon State’s All-American Biletnikoff Award winner as well as No. 118 overall from the New Orleans Saints in exchange for No. 32 overall and No. 103 overall. During his lone regular season in Foxborough on the way to Super Bowl LII, Cooks caught 65 passes for 1,082 yards and seven touchdowns across 16 games. He then made it to Super Bowl LIII with the Los Angeles Rams before making his way to Houston Texans. And in March, the 2014 first-rounder made his way 239 miles north. Cooks has appeared in two games this fall, netting four receptions for 39 yards. The 30-year-old missed one matchup due to a knee injury.
Stephon Gilmore, cornerback — There were 13 passes intercepted by Gilmore during his tenure with New England, including Super Bowl LIII. There were also a pair taken back for touchdowns, plus four forced fumbles and one sack. Following his AFC East arrival from the Buffalo Bills on a five-year, $65 million contract, he started 63 games between those regular seasons and postseasons. The No. 10 overall pick in the 2012 draft class stands with five Pro Bowls and two All-Pros to go with the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Traded to the Carolina Panthers in 2021, the South Carolina product spent last campaign with the Indianapolis Colts before heading to Dallas in exchange for a compensatory fifth-round draft choice. The 33-year-old cornerback has since logged three starts and one interception.
Will Grier, quarterback — As cornerback Marcus Jones went to injured reserve, the Patriots went quarterback with the opening on the 53-man roster. The organization signed Grier off the practice squad of the Cincinnati Bengals in a move that makes him the emergency third option for a minimum of three weeks. The former third-round pick by way of Florida and West Virginia entered the NFL with the Carolina Panthers in 2019. His stay spanned two starts while completing 28-of-52 passes for 228 yards with no touchdowns and four interceptions. Grier was claimed off waivers by Dallas as the calendar turned to the fall of 2021. After stints on both the practice squad and active roster, the 28-year-old was waived by the Cowboys at the league’s deadline last month.
Ezekiel Elliott, running back — The Patriots hosted Elliott on a visit in July. The 28-year-old returned on a one-year deal in August. A three-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro, Elliott stands 106 games into an NFL career that began in the first round of the 2016 draft at No. 4 overall. The Ohio State national champion racked up 8,262 rushing yards, 2,336 receiving yards and 80 total touchdowns across 2,186 touches with the Cowboys. He did so while twice leading the league on the ground. Starting 14 games during his final run with the organization, Elliott scored 12 touchdowns while averaging career lows in yards per carry and yards per catch. Dallas released Elliott as the new league year opened. And since September opened, he has rushed 28 times for 122 yards while adding 21 yards as a receiver, fumbling once. Longs of 12, 13 and 14 yards came last Sunday against the New York Jets.