FOXBORO, Mass. — Between Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips, Kyle Dugger and veteran newcomer Jabrill Peppers, safety might be the strongest position group on the New England Patriots’ roster.
But don’t sleep on Joshuah Bledsoe.
Bledsoe might be an unfamiliar name for many Patriots fans, and he has yet to play a single snap at the NFL level, regular season or preseason. But two days into camp, the young Missouri product has been one of New England’s most active defenders.
A 2021 sixth-round draft pick who missed his entire rookie season with a wrist injury, Bledsoe has forced a total of five incompletions in team drills through the first two camp practices, by far the most of any Patriots defender.
On Thursday, the 23-year-old spoiled quarterback Mac Jones’ perfect streak in 7-on-7s by getting his hand on a pass to tight end Jonnu Smith — Jones finished the period 12-for-13 — then knocked down a Bailey Zappe throw to Devin Asiasi two plays later. As practice wound down, Bledsoe notched a pass breakup against another tight end, ripping the ball from Dalton Keene’s grasp near the goal line in 11-on-11s. These came after Bledsoe deflected passes intended for Jakobi Meyers and Keene on Day 1 of camp.
“Josh was flying around today,” cornerback Jalen Mills said after practice. “He kind of missed a little bit (last season) because of his hand, so him now getting an opportunity to show the coaches what he has from last year, I think that’s really big for him.”
Bledsoe hasn’t just been balling out on the scout team, either. With Peppers beginning training camp on the physically unable to perform list, he’s seen frequent opportunities with the defensive regulars. It hasn’t been perfect — tight end Jonnu Smith Moss’d him for a touchdown early in Thursday’s session — but he’s been involved in a number of positive plays.
The same hasn’t been true for some of last year’s other rookie redshirts. Edge rusher Ronnie Perkins (third round) and linebacker Cameron McGrone (fifth round) both have run mostly with the reserves thus far.
“He’s just growing,” Phillips said of Bledsoe. “He’s able to go out there and put stuff together. He’s learning, he’s asking questions — stuff that you want to see from young guys — and he’s eager to get out there and sometimes mess up. That happens in our field. You go over something, you might mess up, he might mess up, but he’s not afraid to, and he wants to get another rep. So it’s good just to see him grow.”
Bledsoe never saw game action last season, but he did earn a spot on the Patriots’ 53-man roster in mid-December, with head coach Bill Belichick saying he “showed up out there, and positively” in his midseason return to the practice field. McCourty called him “super impressive” after his late-season call-up, praising his preparation and work ethic.
Whether Bledsoe can nab a place on the Week 1 roster remains to be seen — keeping him, the four veterans and special teamer Cody Davis would be devoting a lot of resources to one unit — but he’s off to an encouraging start.
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