New England Patriots: Players Whose Stock Is on the Rise After OTAs
Last year at this time, Michael Jenkins, Zach Sudfeld and Donald Jones were the darlings of the OTA season for the New England Patriots. Two failed to make it to the roster cuts and the other—Sudfeld—didn't make it a full month into the regular season before being released.
These cautionary tales should help increase the dose of salt that you take with reports from practices this early in offseason. Stocks may rise in the media's eye, but only the coaching staff knows the true story.
With that said, here are five players that seem to be making the most of their time in Foxboro.
Steve Beauharnais looks like a likely choice for the first linebacker off the bench with Brandon Spikes and Dane Fletcher gone as well as undrafted rookie James Morris already cut due to an injury.
Mike Reiss from ESPNBoston.com singled out Beauharnais in a report from practice:
Something that stood out to me late in practice was second-year linebacker Steve Beauharnais leading the defensive huddle with authority in 11-on-11 drills. I watched him put his hands on a teammate after barking out the play-call in a take-charge type of manner. Beaurharnais, the seventh-round pick from Rutgers, is a candidate to elevate into a Dane Fletcher-type reserve role in 2014.
After playing just one defensive snap in 2013, Beauharnais could be getting a much bigger workload this year.
Jeff Howe from the Boston Herald mentioned diminutive ball-carrier Roy Finch as a highlight during practice. "Running back Roy Finch made some nice plays catching the ball, including a dart to his gut from Ryan Mallett in traffic," he wrote.
Howe added that "Kenbrell Thompkins, Jeremy Gallon and Finch got a lot of reps returning punts."
While Gallon might have a leg up due to his diverse receiving skill set and draft position, you can't count Finch out. His running ability in the open field is sublime, although his 5'7", 167-pound frame is cause for concern.
He will need to make a name for himself on return units throughout the summer to keep his name in the 53-man roster conversation.
The New England Patriots are dangerously thin at tight end—Michael Hoomanawanui is the only trusted and true tight end behind Rob Gronkowski—leaving the door open for some non-traditional players to find an additional role on the team.
"With the light tight end crew, fullback James Develin broke down with the group and went through pass-catching and blocking drills with them," wrote Mike Reiss from ESPN.com.
In Aaron Hernandez's absence, Develin filled in at the "Move" tight end position at times last season. It looks like he could reprise that role this season.
He isn't flashy, but is a reliable blocker, powerful runner and has decent hands. If rookies Asa Watson and Justin Jones don't step up this summer, Develin could see a dual role again in 2014.
When you have a new player taking reps with the first team on the offensive line, people take notice. Josh Kline turned some heads lining up as the starting left guard.
Mike Reiss from ESPNBoston.com noted the reason for Kline's promotion. "Just as we saw in the AFC-East clinching victory in Baltimore in December, second-year player Josh Kline lined up at left guard. In this case, it was because Logan Mankins wasn't present," he wrote.
If Mankins stays healthy all season, Kline might not see the field as much as he'd like. However, Mankins' contract—Spotrac indicates he is due $11 million in 2015—doesn't bode well for him in 2015 and beyond.
Kline's presence might be used to leverage Mankins in negotiations, or Bill Belichick could see Kline as the future at left guard.
In his rookie season, Jamie Collins only saw the field for 302 snaps. He looks to be carving himself out a much bigger role this season.
In the Boston Herald, Jeff Howe stated that, "Linebacker Jamie Collins looks a little bigger this year, and he didn't come off the field much today despite the heavy rotation of players."
In the latter half of the season—including a solid postseason—Collins flashed a skill set that will translate well to whichever defense Bill Belichick chooses to employ on any given down. He rushed the passer, dropped in coverage and chased down ball-carriers with urgency and tenacity.
With not much depth behind Collins, Dont'a Hightower and Jerod Mayo, New England could need him on all four downs in 2014.
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