All eyes will be on Jimmy Garoppolo this summer in New England, but he’s far from the only young Patriots player to watch in training camp.
The Patriots’ roster, as usual, is loaded. But these six players have a chance to make an impact in 2016 with strong summer performances.
RB D.J. FOSTER
The undrafted rookie showed off impressive speed and quickness at organized team activities and minicamp before being sidelined with a hamstring injury. Foster now should be 100 percent after nearly six weeks off.
Foster played running back and wide receiver at Arizona State, and he has a shot to earn the backup sub-back role behind Dion Lewis in the Patriots’ offense.
WR DEANDRE CARTER
Carter has a steep uphill battle to earn a roster spot, but he showed off quicks and consistency during the spring. Carter is undersized at 5-foot-8, 190 pounds, but he has the speed and agility desired from a slot receiver.
He ran a 4.44-second 40-yard dash with a 1.45-second 10-yard split at his pro day last March. He impressed with a 6.64-second 3-cone and 3.80-second short shuttle. To put those numbers into perspective, Julian Edelman ran a 3.92-second short shuttle and 6.62-second 3-cone back in 2009.
TE A.J. DERBY
The Patriots thought highly enough of Derby to spend a sixth-round draft pick on the tight end in the 2015 NFL Draft. The club placed him on injured reserve early in training camp last summer, and he could earn a roster spot if he stays healthy this year. Derby played quarterback in college before switching to tight end for his senior season. He caught 22 passes for 303 yards with three touchdowns in 2014 at Arkansas.
OT LaADRIAN WADDLE
Waddle likely will have a lot of supporters in New England this summer, since he has a shot to beat out Marcus Cannon for the backup offensive tackle role. The Patriots signed Waddle to a two-year, $2.4 million contract extension this offseason after he was claimed off waivers from the Lions in December. He showed promise in 2014 with Detroit before suffering a knee injury that continued to hamper him in 2015.
DE RUFUS JOHNSON
Johnson was impressive enough in training camp and the 2015 preseason that he earned a spot on the Patriots’ 53-man roster last September. He eventually landed on the non-football illness list in October but will have another chance to shine this summer. The 6-foot-5, 272-pound defender flashed solid pass-rushing skills last year.
CB JONATHAN JONES
Many expected Jones to be drafted as early as the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft, but he wound up going undrafted. He was among the biggest standouts of 2016 OTAs and minicamp for the Patriots and could beat out Darryl Roberts, E.J. Biggers or Justin Coleman for a roster spot. He has blazing speed but is undersized for a cornerback at just 5-foot-9.
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