FOXBORO, Mass. — It’s been 38 days since Duke Dawson officially returned to the 53-man roster, and the rookie cornerback still has yet to make his regular-season NFL debut.
Dawson, whom the New England Patriots drafted in the second round earlier this year, has been a healthy scratch in each of the last four games since returning from injured reserve.
The Florida product has received praise from head coach Bill Belichick and been recognized as a practice player of the week but has been unable to crack the 46-man active list, primarily due to the depth above him.
Dawson currently is behind Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones and Keion Crossen on New England’s cornerback depth chart. Jackson has blossomed into a breakout star as an undrafted rookie, and Crossen, a seventh-round draft pick, plays on multiple special teams units.
“Just to continue to go out and grind and compete,” Dawson said after Friday’s practice. “That’s always been the main thing. Just to come in and get better each and every day.”
Dawson shrugged off a question about Belichick’s compliments but said he believes he’s continuing to improve each day.
“Oh yeah, most def,” he said. “But, I mean, there’s always room for improvement, so I still try to come in and improve, even if it’s in the film room.”
It remains to be seen whether Dawson will suit up before the end of the season — New England hosts the Buffalo Bills on Sunday and the New York Jets next weekend — or if the Patriots will treat this as a de facto redshirt year for the 23-year-old.
“That’s the coaches’ decision,” Dawson said. “I’m just waiting on them to give me the go-ahead. We’ll see when that time comes.”