Patriots Players Who Can Climb Depth Chart with Impressive Camp
The start of training camp isn't too far away, as the New England Patriots recently announced that they would be holding their first day of practice July 28.
After a down year for the Pats in 2020, there could be plenty of roster spots up for grabs. They are going to be looking to turn things around quickly, and they are going to want to send the best available players on to the field each week once the 2021 season arrives.
While some players already have their spots and roles secured, others will be looking to impress during training camp. And if they are successful, they could earn more playing time in the process.
Here's a look at several players who have opportunities to ascend New England's depth chart during training camp and the preseason.
Rhamondre Stevenson, RB
As usual, there are plenty of running backs on the Patriots roster who could get a substantial number of touches this season. New England never relies on just one or two players to carry the load out of the backfield and regularly substitutes backs in and out of the lineup.
Stevenson may be entering his rookie season, but the 6'0" power back could end up with a role in the Patriots offense in 2021. The fourth-round draft pick out of Oklahoma was the 2020 Cotton Bowl MVP and could provide a nice change-of-pace option in New England's running game.
There have been comparisons between Stevenson and former Pats running back LeGarrette Blount, who won two Super Bowls with New England and holds the franchise record for most rushing touchdowns in a season (18). However, Stevenson doesn't expect to immediately step in and enjoy that kind of production.
"I don't think I'm really at that level yet," Stevenson said in June, per Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald. "I'm still a rookie. I haven't played any games in the NFL. I haven't been to one fall camp yet. So I'm still trying to learn, play my role and learn as much as I can."
But Stevenson could do that while on the job. Though backs such as Damien Harris, Sony Michel and James White are likely to be involved frequently, perhaps Stevenson moves up the depth chart and carves out a role for himself leading into the season.
Isaiah Zuber, WR
The Patriots are going to need more production out of their receiving corps if they hope to be more successful in 2021. While offseason acquisitions such as Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne should help, New England will still have snaps to dole out among some of its returning playmakers.
With several receivers likely battling for playing time, Isaiah Zuber is one who could secure a sizable role if he impresses during the buildup to the season. The 24-year-old went undrafted in 2020 before signing with the Pats. Although the Mississippi State product played in only four games last season (recording two catches for 29 yards), the 6'0" receiver could get more playing time in 2021.
N'Keal Harry has struggled during his first two NFL seasons, so he could get passed on the depth chart by an unproven receiver. That could be Zuber, who impressed during the Patriots' OTAs.
"Being in the offense for a whole year, I'm more comfortable now," Zuber said, per Mike Dussault of the Patriots' team site. "I feel more like myself out there. I'm not doing too much thinking. I'm just going out there and playing being able to play fast."
If Zuber continues to show improvement, don't be surprised if he not only secures a roster spot, but also the opportunities to prove himself in regular-season action.
Myles Bryant, CB
Another position group with some uncertainties is cornerback. Stephon Gilmore, the team's No. 1 corner, hasn't been in attendance at events amid a contract dispute, and that situation could determine how much playing time will be up for grabs in the secondary.
Until that's resolved, other cornerbacks have the chance to prove themselves in training camp. That includes Bryant, who has the versatility to contribute at numerous defensive positions, including several in the secondary.
After going undrafted in 2020, Bryant signed with the Pats and found a way to get some substantial time on the field. The Washington product played in nine games and recorded 12 tackles and one interception, which gives him something to build off heading into his second NFL season.
With the ability to also fill in at linebacker or safety, Bryant could become a key member of New England's defense. But that starts with how he performs ahead of the regular-season opener with the Miami Dolphins on September 12, as he could show that he's ready for an increased role and more opportunities.