Before the NFL offseason hits its full swing, NESN.com will be highlighting hidden Patriots: players on New England’s roster who have fallen under the radar for one reason or another. Next up: quarterback Jake Dolegala.
New England Patriots quarterback Jake Dolegala has been mentioned frequently this offseason for a player who spent last season on the practice squad and signed a future contract last month, but it’s always in the same context.
“The Patriots currently only have two quarterbacks signed for the 2021 season: Jarrett Stidham and Jake Dolegala.”
It is true that if the 2021 NFL season started today, Dolegala, a 2019 undrafted free agent out of Central Connecticut State University (the less famous Blue Devils), would be top-two on the Patriots’ quarterback depth chart. But the season does not start today, and New England is expected to add another quarterback or two via trade, free agency or the draft.
But Dolegala will be an interesting player to watch when the Patriots reconvene, assuming he’s still on the team for organized team activities, minicamp, training camp and the preseason.
The 24-year-old quarterback was signed by the Bengals after going undrafted in 2019 and spent his entire rookie season on Cincinnati’s 53-man roster. Dolegala lost his roster spot to 2020 first overall pick Joe Burrow and was released on Sept. 5 before catching on with the Patriots.
The Patriots elected to hold onto Dolegala as their fourth quarterback over undrafted rookie Brian Lewerke, a Michigan State product who was with the team in training camp.
It’s pretty easy to see why the Bengals chose to keep the 6-foot-7, 242-pound QB on their 53-man roster in 2019 after seeing his preseason numbers and some of the throws he made against the New York Giants and Indianapolis Colts in two exhibition performances.
Dolegala went 37-of-53 (69.8 percent) for 347 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He was sacked five times, lost a fumble on a strip-sack and also ran the ball three times for 12 yards.
We’ll get one more negative trait out of the way, as well. He routinely threw behind receivers on crossing routes.
But he also showed impressive touch on multiple throws in the 2019 preseason.
The second pass of Dolegala’s NFL preseason career went for a 34-yard completion to wide receiver Ventell Bryant against the New York Giants. Dolegala hit Bryant in stride down the right sideline.
He threw two perfectly placed fades for touchdowns in that Week 3 game against the Giants:
The Western New York-native also nailed Bengals wide receiver Cody Core down the right sideline for a 39-yard hookup in Week 4 of the preseason against the Colts.
Minutes later in the same game, Dolegala hit Bengals wideout Ventell Bryant for a 26-yard connection on another throw to his right.
The QB’s next throw should have gone for a touchdown. He rolled to his left and threaded the needle on a pass to Bengals receiver Josh Malone. It’s tough to see in the clip, but the ball clangs off Malone’s hands.
Once again, it’s really tough to see, but on NFL Gamepass, there are two angles that show the ball clanging through Malone’s hands, hitting him in the chest and falling to the ground. It’s a pretty incredible throw from Dolegala on the move that should have resulted in a score.
Dolegala doesn’t need a perfect pocket to still throw an accurate strike. He had pressure bearing down but shifted to his right to complete a pass in a small window to Bryant.
The young quarterback can also throw on the move. He only ran a 5.04-second 40-yard dash (not quite Tom Brady numbers but certainly below average speed) and 7.22-second three-cone at his pro day in March of 2019, but he has some mobility to get out of the pocket and even showed some option looks in the preseason. He put the ball in the perfect spot on an 18-yard completion to tight end Jordan Franks after rolling out to his right.
Obviously, none of this is to say Dolegala should be the Patriots’ Week 1 starter in 2021, and it’s worth mentioning that Stidham impressed that same preseason, going 61-of-91 for 731 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. But Dolegala is at least an interesting player to have on the roster, and he has some qualities that will make you perk up a little bit.
There are only so many quarterbacks in the NFL, and many of them wind up on the field in a regular season game at some point. Two former Patriots practice squad quarterbacks, Garrett Gilbert and Taylor Heinicke, started games this season and didn’t look half bad. Based on what we’re seeing out of Dolegala, it wouldn’t be overly surprising if he was in that situation at some point down the line.
Depending on who the Patriots bring in this offseason, Dolegala might not get many opportunities in practices or preseason games. So, as he did in 2019, he must make the most of them again this summer.