Malik Cunningham went un-drafted in this year’s NFL draft.
The former Louisville quarterback signed with the New England Patriots shortly after the 2023 draft as an un-drafted free agent. Despite playing quarterback during his college career, he decided to go in as a wide receiver to improve his chances of making a roster.
Luckily for Cunningham, his position as an un drafted player in the position he is competing for a roster spot, he got plenty of reps during the Patriots first pre-season game against the Texans.
Leading up to the first pre-season game, Cunningham was seen on Day 11 of training camp getting reps at quarterback late in practice despite exclusively playing wide receiver. With no real starters playing against the Texans, Cunningham took the field at the quarterback position and impressed after the Patriots offense failed to get anything going.
Malik Cunningham not only got his time on the football field at quarterback, he stole the show for what he was able to accomplish passing and rushing.
🔥Has #Patriots UDFA Malik Cunningham ENTERED the 'QB COMPETITION' ? 🤔
🏈@tkyles39 discusses Malik's impressive debut and where he flashed his ability as a pocket passer in addition to his athleticism! ⬇️
— Patriots on CLNS (@PatriotsCLNS) August 11, 2023
CLNS Media’s Taylor Kyles noted that Cunningham, “flashed his ability as a pocket passer,” and “he appeared to make smart decisions, threw with accuracy, and should’ve had a downfield touchdown to Tre Nixon that was dropped.”
Cunningham went on to lead the Patriots on a drive to their only touchdown of the game, displaying quick footwork to get past defenders to the end zone. His athletic showcasing got everyone intrigued in Cunningham’s quarterback game, and has even landed him more reps at QB in practice following the performance. He continues to make a case for himself on the backup quarterback list.
Malik Cunningham’s electrifying display at quarterback is nothing new for the rookie. “I watched him in college when he was at Louisville so we already knew what he could do, but it’s good to see him go out there and do it tonight,” said teammate Tyquan Thornton.
During his five year tenure at Louisville, he had a 62.6 pass completion percentage, tallying 9,660 passing yards, throwing 70 touchdowns with a 151.8 passing efficiency rating.
“He’s electric,” said teammate Juju-Smith Schuster. “When the football is in his hands as a quarterback, he’s a very dangerous player as you can see past Thursday night. He’s a guy who’s been doing it in college, so I guess it’s like second nature to him to do that.”
Cunningham was rewarded for what he did after the Patriots pre-season game versus the Texans. He was spotted behind Mac Jones at quarterback for an extensive look at quarterback in the following days at training camp.
INSTANT REACTION from @tkyles39:
Malik Cunningham headlines Day 13 of #Patriots Training Camp 🔥
🏈 Malik at QB 👀
🏈Riley Reiff moves to Guard 🤔 pic.twitter.com/YaB0e6eVrt
— Patriots on CLNS (@PatriotsCLNS) August 13, 2023
“He’s probably more still trying to work on that receiver side,” Smith-Schuster explained. “He’s come a long way, when we started at OTAs to where we’re at now. He’s doing really well on both sides of the ball.”
Two words to describe Cunningham are athletic and versatile, making him the perfect two-way player at wide receiver and backup quarterback. His ability to run with the ball and adjust with plays was on full display against the Texans despite the 20-9 loss. The field, “parted like the Red Sea,” said Cunningham jokingly about his TD run.
What’s next for Malik Cunningham? With the praise he’s been receiving and the potential he’s shown, he’s looking to climb the QB latter and has immense promise as a two-way player for the Patriots.
Although he’s faraway from taking Mac Jone’s top spot at QB 1, Cunningham is an asset for the Patriots with his ability to be an athletic and intelligent wide receiver who opens up the field when given the ball at quarterback.