FOXBORO, Mass. — Those pesky New England Patriots somehow seemingly did it again.
The Patriots unearth an undrafted cornerback almost every single year who just won’t stop making plays in practice. This year, it’s New Mexico’s D’Angelo Ross.
He first showed up on the media’s radar Wednesday during 1-on-1 drills between cornerbacks and wide receivers. He won all three of his matchups against Dontrelle Inman, Braxton Berrios and Gunner Olszewski with pass breakups over the latter two slot receivers.
He proved it wasn’t a fluke Thursday when he won two of his three 1-on-1 matchups with two pass breakups over veteran receiver Maurice Harris.
Ross’ performance wasn’t a big shock to one of his veteran teammates.
“The reason I would say he hasn’t surprised me is in the classroom,” Jason McCourty said Friday. “He’s been on top of everything. A guy that — sitting next to him in meetings, he writes every single thing down that the coaches say. You can tell how much he’s putting into it. You can tell when you come in when he’s answering questions in the meeting room that he’s going home and he’s studying and stuff at night. That gives you a chance. So, when you hit the practice field, when you know what you’re doing and you’re confident, it allows you to play fast.
“We’re seeing that from him so far in training camp. He’s coming out here. He’s able to play fast. He’s able to make and know the checks. He’s playing some good football for us.”
Realistically, Ross’ chances of making the Patriots’ 53-man roster are slim-to-none. McCourty, Stephon Gilmore, JC Jackson, Joejuan Williams and Jonathan Jones are locks to make the team barring anything unforeseen. The Patriots typically only carry five cornerbacks. They still have special teams ace Keion Crossen and 2018 second-round pick Duke Dawson vying for a sixth spot.
If Ross continues shining in practice, and if he can carry it over into games, then he could hit the radar of another team. It wouldn’t be the first time an undrafted cornerback first discovered by the Patriots had success elsewhere. While Jackson, Malcolm Butler and Randall Gay earned their way onto the Patriots’ 53-man roster, players like Kenny Moore and Cre’von LeBlanc were claimed on waivers as New England attempted to get them on their practice squad in a numbers game.
“Whatever reps I get, I just have to make sure I make the best of them,” Ross said Friday.
Any other team could have had Ross. The Patriots were the only opportunity for the 5-foot-9, 190-pound cornerback. He flashed at his pro day even surprising himself by running a 4.37-second 40-yard dash. He was excellent in the slot last season for the Lobos, allowing just 14 catches on 28 targets for 169 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. He let up 34 catches on 67 targets for 486 yards with three touchdowns and one interception overall.
He went to New Mexico after spending two seasons at Fullerton College, a JUCO in California. He wound up at Fullerton after walking on to Fresno State for one season. He took a chance on himself, knowing he could get a scholarship if he proved himself at the junior college level.
Ross still has another month to stand out in training camp and the preseason, but he’s off to a hot start