This Patriots Defender Playing ‘Everywhere’ In Bid For Roster Spot

'It just shows my versatility'


Aug 9, 2022

FOXBORO, Mass. — Versatility is one of the clearest roads to a roster spot for a New England Patriots player on the fringes of the 53.

That’s the path Shaun Wade is trying to follow this summer.

Wade, the second-year cornerback New England acquired from the Baltimore Ravens last August, is playing multiple roles in the secondary as he vies to keep his place on the 53-man roster.

“Because of a couple of guys that weren’t able to participate at the beginning part of training camp, he’s played some different positions,” head coach Bill Belichick said before Monday’s practice. “He played a little bit of safety, some inside on the nickel position, and outside. So he’s gotten a good dose of everything. Smart kid. He’s been productive, has good skills. He’s just gained experience in the system. He’s getting better every day out there.”

With Jonathan Jones missing the start of training camp, Wade was the Patriots’ first-team slot corner in some early camp practices. He also saw looks at safety with Jabrill Peppers working his way back from injury and Devin McCourty enjoying what appeared to be a few veteran rest days. Wade repped at outside cornerback, his primary position in 2021, as well.

Last season was a de facto redshirt year for Wade, who joined the Patriots days before their final preseason game. Despite injuries and inconsistent play within New England’s cornerback group, the 23-year-old was active for just three regular-season games, playing a total of 11 snaps on defense and seven more on special teams.

“It took a long time (to feel comfortable),” Wade said Monday. “Last year, I only got to play just corner, and then when we got into the spring term, they kind of put me everywhere. It kind of shocked me a little bit, but I’m a good learner. That’s what I do. You could throw me anywhere and I’d learn it just like that.”

He added: “If I can learn every spot, it just shows my versatility in the back end. I did it at Ohio State; I can do it here. So that’s what I’m doing, and I just keep continuing learning.”

Wade thrived as a slot defender during his college career, projecting as a likely first-round pick entering the 2020 season. The Buckeyes shifted him to outside cornerback as a senior, and his play cratered, tanking his draft stock. The Ravens selected him in the fifth round, then flipped him to the Patriots before his rookie season began.

Despite his collegiate success in the slot, 78 of Wade’s 85 NFL snaps to date (preseason and regular season) have come on the perimeter, per Pro Football Focus. Asked whether there’s a specific position he prefers, Wade replied: “I just play football, so wherever they need me.”

“If I need to play long snapper, I’ll play long snapper,” he said. “Guard? Guard. Whatever it is. I just play football.”

Wade said he’s leaned on New England’s veteran defensive backs — Jalen Mills, McCourty, Adrian Phillips — as he continues to learn the nuances of his various positions.

“Just grasping the defense is No. 1,” he said. “No. 2 is just focusing on my body — getting stronger, faster. Those are things that I knew when I came in the league that I had to work on, so those are something I worked on during the season and during the offseason.”

Wade, who worked with a track coach in his native Florida this offseason, believes he’s both stronger and faster now in Year 2. Belichick is eager to see how he performs in the Patriots’ joint practices and preseason games, the first of which is scheduled for Thursday night against the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium.

“It’ll be interesting to watch him and some other guys in that similar situation — kind of that second year but didn’t really do a whole lot the first year,” Belichick said, referring to a group that also includes 2021 draftees Ronnie Perkins, Cameron McGrone, Joshuah Bledsoe and Tre Nixon.

“We’ll see how they do as we get into the competitive practices with Carolina and Vegas and then the preseason games here starting on Thursday. It’ll be interesting to see how that goes.”’s coverage of New England Patriots preseason is presented by Cross Insurance, protecting your team since 1954.

Thumbnail photo via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images
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