Circumstances one day might prompt the New England Patriots to use Gunner Olszewski like a Swiss Army knife.
ESPN’s Mike Reiss on Wednesday named the Patriots wide receiver as the team’s best potential two-way player. Although Olszewski’s NFL claim to fame is as a top kickoff and punt returner, New England’s roster lists him as a receiver. However, he played college football as a defensive back, and Reiss believes he could fill such a role again in a pinch.
“In fairness to Olszewski, this might be under-selling him,” Reiss wrote. “He is really a three-way player. He played defensive back at Bemidji State — he had three interceptions as a senior — before switching to receiver with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2019. He was named an All-Pro return man in 2020. So that’s defense, offense and special teams, although Olszewski hasn’t yet played D in a regular season game. He is an emergency option, similar to Troy Brown and Julian Edelman in past years.”
Olszewski spent the offseason increasing his speed and strength in order to maintain his lofty status as a return man and earn more reps and targets at wide receiver. He has played just 16% of the Patriots’ offensive snaps this season, a slight increase on last season’s 11%, so it seems he has a long way to go before he reaches that first goal.
Whether he aims to feature on the defensive side of the ball in the NFL is unknown. An injury crisis among Patriots’ defensive backs likely is the only reason he’d play there. If that ever came to pass, the season he received in college in that aspect of the game would serve him well.