With nearly three weeks remaining before cutdown day in the NFL, it’s still too early to make any definitive judgments on who will make the New England Patriots’ 53-man roster and who will not. It’s not too early to share our thoughts, though.
Here are three players who have improved their position this summer and three who are trending in the opposite direction entering the first of two joint practices with the Houston Texans at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia:
STOCK UP: Jacob Hollister, TE
One of four players battling for the Patriots’ third tight end spot, Hollister made a strong case for himself last Thursday night, catching seven passes for 116 yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars in New England’s preseason opener. The undrafted rookie’s blend of athleticism and toughness — he absorbed 15-yard personal fouls on two successful receptions against the Jags — is very intriguing.
Hollister’s top competition for a roster spot will be James O’Shaugnessy, a core special teamer for the Kansas City Chiefs last season who now appears healthy after being limited in practice last week.
STOCK DOWN: Jordan Richards, S
Richards actually got off to a great start in training camp, intercepting three passes over New England’s first three practices. Since then? Different story. A second-round draft pick just two years ago, Richards appears no closer to passing Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon or Nate Ebner on the Patriots’ loaded safety depth chart than he was at the end of last season, when he was a healthy scratch for all three playoff games.
Richards had an especially poor game Thursday night, as he appeared to be at least partially to blame for wide receiver Dede Westbrook’s 42-yard touchdown catch (failed to provide safety help) and running back Corey Grant’s 79-yard touchdown run (poor angle).
UP: Harvey Langi, LB
Langi and defensive end Deatrich Wise have been the most impressive Patriots rookies thus far, and since Wise currently is on the shelf after suffering a head injury Thursday, we’re keeping him off this list for now. Langi, the highest-paid undrafted free agent in the NFL this year, has been running with the first-team defense for most of camp and showed promise against the Jaguars in his Patriots debut.
DOWN: Elandon Roberts, LB
Roberts is a talented run defender who played a significant role on last year’s Super Bowl team, but he still struggles too much in pass coverage to be considered a roster lock. He did not look great against Jacksonville– his missed tackle at the line of scrimmage made Grant’s long touchdown possible — and if his play does not improve over the next few weeks, he could be on the chopping block, especially with run-first linebacker David Harris now in the mix.
UP: Austin Carr, WR
Carr hasn’t flashed much on the practice field since the first day of camp, but he was the talk of the town after the preseason opener. He caught five passes on seven targets for 44 yards and hauled in an acrobatic touchdown catch from quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the final minute of the first half. Carr’s chances of making the roster as an undrafted rookie still look bleak given New England’s wealth of top-flight wideouts, but his profile certainly is on the rise.
DOWN: Cyrus Jones, CB
The good: Jones hasn’t had any issues fielding punts and kicks this summer. The not-so-good: He allowed four catches on four targets for 151 yards Thursday night, including a 97-yard touchdown and Westbrook’s 42-yarder. I still see the 2016 second-round draft pick making this team unless his special teams struggles from last season return, but it’s impossible to say Jones is in a better position now than he was at this point last week.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images