FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots invested draft capital and salary cap space by bringing in multiple former highly drafted players prior to the 2016 NFL season. They didn’t need to risk anything to pick up 2014 second-round pick Bishop Sankey, however.
The Patriots traded for tight end Martellus Bennett (second round, 2008), guard Jonathan Cooper (seventh overall, 2013, linebacker Barkevious Mingo (sixth overall, 2013) and defensive back Eric Rowe (second round, 2015), and signed Chris Long, the second overall pick in 2008, to a one-year deal with $1 million guaranteed this offseason and summer.
The Patriots added Sankey to their practice squad Sunday after he was released by the Tennessee Titans and and cleared waivers. He’s even making the practice-squad minimum $6,900 per week, according to a source.
And based on comments from Patriots coach Bill Belichick, the team likes what it sees in the running back after just two practices.
“That’s another guy we did a lot of work on in the draft a couple years ago,” Belichick said Thursday. “He came out with James White. A player with good skill, running game, passing game. We’ve used him in the kicking game here in the last couple days. That showed up. He can run, he’s athletic. Another smart kid who seems like he can handle a decent volume of information.
“It’s been good. We’re getting to know him, getting to integrate him into our system. It’s been positive. I like having him.”
Sankey is listed at 5-foot-10 and 209 pounds, which typically would categorize him as a sub back, rather than an early down runner, in the Patriots’ offense. Belichick wasn’t so quick to pigeonhole the Washington product, however.
“He’s done both. Kinda like James has,” Belichick said. “James has (played as a pass-catching back) more for us, but in college, he carried the ball a lot. Sankey did both at Washington. He can run, he can catch. He’s been involved in the return game, special teams. We’ll see how it all plays out, but I think he’s got a variety of skills.”
Sankey carried the ball a ton in college, with 3,496 yards on 644 carries with 37 touchdowns in 29 games, and he added 67 receptions for 567 yards with one score. He has 199 carries for 762 yards and three touchdowns in two NFL seasons, along with 32 catches for 272 yards and one score.
Sankey didn’t return the ball very frequently with the Huskies, bringing back seven kicks for 134 yards. He has 16 kick returns for 390 yards in the NFL.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see Sankey brought up to the Patriots’ 53-man roster at some point this season, since Dion Lewis is on the physically unable to perform list for at least six weeks, White has struggled at picking up yards on the ground, and D.J. Foster is an inexperienced undrafted free agent. If the Patriots had to pick between Sankey and White in 2014, the choice would be clear. White has the advantage for now, however, because of his experience in New England’s system.
Thumbnail photo via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports Images