The New England Patriots did not have a first-round selection this season, but that does not mean that they do not have any rookies that will make an impact this season.
Joe Thuney, Cyrus Jones, and Kamu Grugier-Hill are among the rookies that have stood out in training camp so far. Thuney is the most likely of the three players to make an impact this season, as Mass Live is reporting that he will be given every opportunity to win a starting job on an offensive line unit that struggled last year.
“Rookie guard Joe Thuney was impressive in one-on-one blocking drills. He looks to have a solid base, a strong lower body and sound technique. All three traits were evident when he stood up Geneo Grissom during one drill. With the injuries piling up at guard, Thuney will have every opportunity to win a starting job.”
Thuney, a third-round pick out of North Carolina State, has been practicing with the first unit at left guard. The 2015 AP All-ACC choice is currently in a battle fourth-year veteran Josh Kline and second-year pro Shaq Mason for a spot on the top unit.
Left guard is not the only starting spot on the offensive line up for grabs. Jonathan Cooper, who came over to the Pats in the Chandler Jones trade, has been starting at right guard but was carted off the field Saturday. The 26-year-old, per Ian Rapopart of the NFL Network, is dealing with plantar fascia. Sixth-round draft pick Ted Karras took over for Cooper at right guard. Second-year Tre Jackson is also expected to be in conversation for a starting spot when he returns from the physically unable to perform list.
The rest of the offensive line is expected to consist of Nate Solder at left tackle, Sebastian Vollmer at right tackle and either David Andrews or Bryan Stork at center. Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle could also see time at tackle this season.
New England used a league-high 39 different offensive line combinations last year, which contributed to the group being ranked 25 by in their o-line rankings. The Pats offensive line biggest problem was pass protection, ranking 31 in the league in that department. They were also 12 in run blocking and 15 in penalties.
New England used a league-high 39 different offensive line combinations last year, which contributed to the group being ranked 25th by Pro Football Focus in their o-line rankings. The Pats offensive line biggest problem was pass protection, ranking 31st in the league in that department. They were also 12th in run blocking and 15th in penalties.
Jones, the 60th overall selection, has received rave reviews from his coaches and teammates. The 5-foot-10 cornerback is expected to see a lot of time in the slot this year and could take over punt and kick return duties.
“I’m not one to grade people, I’m not coach (Bill Belichick). But I can just tell, the kid’s an athlete,” cornerback Logan Ryan told The Day about Jones. “The kid’s a competitor. You see that in the locker room. You see that on the field. He fits right in with what we’re trying to do, and I think the whole bunch of rookies and (second-year corner) Justin Coleman and all those guys are doing a great job of just competing every day.”
Jones has been very impressive in drills, effectively jamming receivers at the line in press man coverage, according to Adam Kurkjian of the Boston Herald. The Alabama product has been able to effectively jam receivers at the line, and has knocked players off their routes and been able to shadow them effectively when they break free. Kurkjian said that Jones has appeared also to have picked up the Patriots’ zone concepts. In addition, Jones has been impressive in returning punts.
Keshawn Martin, Danny Amendola, and Julian Edelman were New England’s main kick returners in 2015.
Jones totaled seven interceptions and 108 tackles, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in 51 collegiate games. He also returned 46 punts for 618 yards and four touchdowns.
Keshawn Martin, Danny Amendola, and Julian Edelman were New England’s main returners in 2015.
Grugier-Hill has been singled out by head coach Bill Belichick for his early work. The sixth-round draft pick out of Eastern Illinois can play either safety or linebacker though he will likely make the biggest impact on special teams.
“It’s going good. It’s just a learning process every day, you have to learn something new and execute it,” Grugier-Hill said.
Quarterback Jacoby Brissett (third round pick), wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell (fourth round pick), defensive tackle Vincent Valentine (third round pick) and undrafted defensive back Jonathan Jones are rookies that are expected to make New England’s 53-man roster.
[Photo by Michael Dwyer/AP Photo]