Quick Thoughts on the Patriots Initial Practice Squad

The Patriots’ 53-man roster may still have some holes, particularly at running back and tight-end, but they’ve done a solid job filling their practice squad with elevation options who can contribute on game days at those and other positions.

Here are some quick-hitting thoughts on each member of New England’s 16-man squad, how they performed this summer, and what they bring to the team.

Quarterback (2)

Bailey Zappe, Malik Cunningham

Bailey Zappe struggled with processing and accuracy throughout training camp and preseason, which explains the team’s decision to subject him to waivers and later sign former Panther Matt Corral, who was taken 42 spots before Zappe in last year’s draft. Tom Pelissero reported that Zappe had offers from seven other teams but decided to return to the Patriots, which could give him the necessary time to catch up in Bill O’Brien’s system.

Malik Cunningham flashed intriguing potential in limited opportunities at quarterback. But publically, they’ve insisted he’ll be working at wide receiver this season. Cunningham’s willingness to play wherever the team asked was commendable, but this summer made it pretty clear his best path in the NFL is under center.

Running Back (2)

Ty Montgomery II, Kevin Harris

With the Patriots having only two running backs on their 53-man roster, Ty Montgomery seems like a top candidate to be brought up once players are placed on injured reserve. He did not suit up for the Titans game and the team seemed to take a cautious approach in bringing the veteran back after his leg injury during the first week of camp.

Kevin Harris was on the practice squad for much of last season, so his return makes sense.

Wide Receiver (2)

Thyrick Pitts, Jalen Reagor

Thyrick Pitts caught just four of his ten targets this preseason, including two drops, struggled against press coverage, and needs to improve as a route runner. That said, he had a high-effort catch-and-run against the Titans, flashed in practice with a pair of deep receptions against Christian Gonzalez, and is the team’s only true “X” body type behind DeVante Parker. He’s an interesting developmental prospect whose college tape suggests he has more downfield potential than we saw in the preseason.

The Patriots made a surprising move with their final practice squad spot, signing former Eagle and Viking Jalen Reagor. The 2020 draft’s 21st pick has a ton of potential and dynamic athleticism, but a lack of dependability has kept him from living up to his potential. This was a low-risk, potentially high-reward signing for a team that’s well-stocked at receiver and returner.

Tight End (2)

Matt Sokol, Pharaoh Brown

Matt Sokol has seemed like a practice squad lock for most of the summer. He was regularly in the mix with the top offense as the top backup to Hunter Henry at “Y” tight end, and while he had his share of struggles as a blocker, there were also several positive flashes.

Pharaoh Brown played under Bill O’Brien in Houston in 2020 and gives New England another big-body in-line option with some positional versatility.

Offensive Line (3)

James Ferentz, Andrew Stueber, Kody Russey

I think James Ferentz will be a Patriot as long as he wants to remain in the NFL. Though he had some rough moments in the preseason, the team clearly values the veteran.

Andrew Stueber struggled significantly at left tackle in both training camp and preseason, allowing a team-high six pressures and two sacks in live action. That said, both Bill Belichick and Matt Groh have said he’s essentially a rookie after missing all of last season and he’s probably better suited at right tackle or guard.

Kody Russey only played one preseason game due to injury, but he’s a smart, tough, and physical player who I think could become a decent starting option for New England down the road with technical improvement. He can also offers versatility as a natural center who also worked as a guard in camp.

Linebacker (2)

Calvin Munson, Joe Giles-Harris

Calvin Munson was a preseason standout who made up for a lack of great size of athleticism with quick recognition and effort. He also started mixing in with the top defense at times pretty early in training camp. With Raekwon McMillan out for the season, Munson gives the team another downhill presence who can also be a core special teamer. According to MassLive’s Mark Daniels, he’s expected to sign to the 53-man roster in the coming days.

Joe Giles-Harris had a solid preseason finale against the Titans and profiles similarly to Munson.

Edge Defender (1)

Ronnie Perkins

Ronnie Perkins had an outstanding start to the preseason finale in Tennessee before having to leave with an injury. Despite playing zero regular-season snaps in the NFL, Perkins’ run-stopping, ability to disrupt the pocket, and effort showed why the team has kept him around since 2021.

Safety (1)

Joshuah Bledsoe

No one played more preseason snaps for New England than Joshuah Bledsoe, who lined up at deep safety, box safety, linebacker, in the slot. and played on every special teams unit except extra points. He didn’t make enough plays to earn a roster spot in a loaded position group, but his effort and versatility are good tools to work with.

Punter (1)

Corliss Waitman

Corliss Waitman had a good preseason, but Bryce Baringer’s draft status and bigger leg won him the job. Waitman offers consistency and can give a different look on scout team as a left-footed punter.

Taylor Kyles

Taylor Kyles is the lead NFL Analyst for CLNS Media covering players, schemes, and tendencies through a New England Patriots-centric lens.

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