6 Players Who Might Find Themselves on the Patriots' Practice Squad in 2014
Practice squads in the NFL aren't filled with players like Rudy and Keanu Reeves. Contributors are brought up from practice squads scores of times on nearly every NFL team. Benjarvus Green-Ellis—now a Cincinnati Bengal—is one of a handful of former New England Patriots practice squad players to end up starting in the NFL.
The six players profiled here won't be happy with a demotion to the scout team from the 53-man roster, but the move isn't a death sentence. Injuries, poor play or a change in tactics can warrant a recall of a demoted player.
Here are six players whose situation might not allow them a spot on the final roster, but whose talent and versatility could make them ripe for selection to the practice squad.
Jeremy Gallon (WR)
Jeremy Gallon fills a role once held by former seventh-round pick Jeremy Ebert. He'll be backing up two very good slot receivers—Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola as opposed to Ebert's Edelman and Wes Welker—and trying to make the 53-man roster.
If Amendola, Edelman and Josh Boyce all stay healthy during training camp, Gallon might find himself on the outside looking in.
Gallon's route-running, solid hands and open-field vision will make him a prime candidate for the practice squad. Looking ahead to 2015, Gallon could be looked at to replace Amendola's production at a greatly reduced price.
Roy Finch (RB) and Stephen Houston (RB)
Though consistency hasn't been a hallmark of their careers thus far, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden have all shown the ability to earn extended playing time in the NFL. Unfortunately for the New England Patriots, they'll all be free agents—Bolden will be restricted—after the 2014 season.
Enter undrafted rookies Roy Finch and Stephen Houston.
If Ridley and Vereen are too demanding when seeking their second contracts, having Finch and Houston waiting in the wings would act as leverage.
Finch has some of the same elusive traits of Vereen, while Houston has the one-cut decisiveness of Ridley. Each can contribute on special teams. Finch shows promise as a returner, while Houston's athleticism lends itself to coverage units.
Look for one or both to end up stashed on the practice squad; the other just might find their way onto the final roster.
Tyler Ott (TE)
Positional versatility—especially on special teams—will always earn you a second look from Bill Belichick. Tyler Ott's ability to contribute as a fourth tight end and as a long snapper might be enough to keep him around on the practice squad.
Danny Aiken—despite a memorable moonball over punter Ryan Allen's head—has had a solid career in New England. Solid isn't enough for Belichick. Zoltan Mesko was a solid punter, and it cost him his job when a cheaper alternative came around in Allen.
If Belichick thinks Ott has a chance at saving him a roster spot—doubling up at tight end and long snapper—in the future, he'll keep him around.
Asa Watson (TE) and Justin Jones (TE)
With Rob Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui the only proven tight ends on the roster, one would think they would be in high demand in New England. Other than three undrafted free agents, however, the position has largely been ignored. Joining the aforementioned Tyler Ott are Asa Watson—brother of former New England Patriots tight end Ben Watson—and the 6'8" Justin Jones.
With the dearth of depth at the position, the Patriots are widely rumored to be looking at bringing in Jermichael Finley and Dustin Keller as veteran tight ends. If one of those signings materializes, it is likely that one or both of Watson and Jones won't survive the final cuts.
Watson's ability to play the "Move" tight end spot will be attractive to Bill Belichick, and Jones' huge size could replace Gronkowski in the red zone should another injury befall him. Both would do well to soften some of the rougher areas of their game on the practice squad.
However, if Finley and Keller aren't in the cards, each could be asked to suit up on Sundays.