ALLEN PARK, Mich. — A change of scenery has been good for New England Patriots pass rusher Shilique Calhoun.
Since the Patriots have been in Detroit for joint practices with the Lions, Calhoun has earned first-team defensive reps, and he’s regularly finding himself in the backfield during 1-on-1 and 11-on-11 drills.
Michigan is familiar territory for Calhoun, who played his college ball for the Spartans in East Lansing. Calhoun suited up for Michigan State from 2011 to 2015 before being selected by the Oakland Raiders in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. He recorded just 29 tackles with a 1/2 sack in 26 games, as he bounced between the Raiders’ active roster and practice squad for three seasons.
The Patriots signed Calhoun as a free agent to a one-year, $720,000 salary with no guaranteed money this offseason. He was viewed as a longshot to make the team in the spring, but first-team snaps for any player will start to open eyes.
So, does this feel like a fresh start for the 6-foot-4, 260-pound pass rusher?
“You can never have a fresh, new start, but it’s nice to come somewhere new and just have an opportunity for the most part,” Calhoun said.
Calhoun certainly isn’t putting the cart before the horse after seeing so many reps in Monday’s and Tuesday’s practices.
“It’s a blessing just to have an opportunity to go out there and compete,” Calhoun said. “I’d just like to thank the organization because it’s always nice putting the pads on and having fun with a bunch of guys as dedicated to one common goal. …
“Right now, it’s just reps. It’s just rotation. It’s just another opportunity. Right now, I could be with the ones, next week I could be down to the twos. Focus on getting better. It doesn’t matter what team I’m in on. I’m just trying to get better each and every snap.”
After a turbulent three years in Oakland, Calhoun knows nothing is guaranteed in the NFL. But he is looking forward to suiting up in his first preseason game with a new team.
“I always look forward to games,” Calhoun said. “I look forward to practice. I look forward to competing in general. It’ll be nice to go out there and be able to lace it up one more time because each and every play is not guaranteed to you, so just the opportunity to be out there will be amazing.”
Quality reps in practice are nice for edge defenders, but there’s no tackling in these sessions. Games really are where defensive ends and outside linebackers can set themselves apart.
If Calhoun can consistently find himself in the backfield this preseason, the original longshot could turn into a surprise contributor for the 2019 Patriots.