Set at Sixteen: Meet the Patriots 2021 Practice Squad

New England has assembled an impressive collection of talent to complement their 53-man roster.
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With the New England Patriots having crafted their initial 53-man roster for the upcoming season, Wednesday’s workload consisted of forming the team’s sixteen-man practice squad. Surprisingly, no player waived by New England on Tuesday was claimed on waivers. Therefore, the Pats were free to facilitate their returns via the practice squad.

Without further ado, let’s take a minute to meet the sixteen members of the Patriots 2021 Practice Squad:

Quarterback (2)

Brian Hoyer, Garrett Gilbert

With rookie Mac Jones beginning the day as the only quarterback on their roster, the Patriots needed to restock the cupboard under center. Expectedly, the Pats retained the services of Brian Hoyer. During his time in New England, Hoyer has been outstanding when running the scout team. His experience and knowledge within the Patriots offensive system could prove to be invaluable as a mentor to Jones.

New England is also expected to add Gilbert to the practice squad. Most recently of the Dallas Cowboys, he entered the NFL in 2014 as a sixth-round draft choice from Texas, also having spent time at SMU. Gilbert did spend two seasons with the Patriots practice squad in 2014 and 2015. He has played for seven NFL teams, as well as the Orlando Apollos of the Alliance of American Football. At 6-foot-4, 223-pounds, he has good size for the position, His playing style should be a good fit within the Patriots quick passing game.

Fullback (1)

Ben Mason

Mason is a New England native who played high school football for Newton High School in Newtown, Connecticut. The 22-year-old was drafted in the fifth round by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2021 NFL draft. However, he was cut by the team at the conclusion of training camp. The Michigan product adds depth to the fullback position, both as a potential goal-line carrier and capable blocker.

Tight End (1)

Matt LaCosse

LaCosse rejoins the Patriots after having a solid training camp. After suffering a head injury during joint practices with the Philadelphia Eagles in August, LaCosse missed valuable time on the field. However, he is a versatile tight end who has shown he can be used both as a receiver and pass protector. He could also serve as a blocker in the running game. LaCosse could be a game-day call-up when the Pats intend on abundantly utilizing their 12-man personnel.

Wide Receiver (2)

Kristian Wilkerson, Tre Nixon

Despite having a hot start to training camp, Wilkerson’s production cooled a bit. While some considered him a serious contender to earn a spot on the Pats 53-man roster, the 24-year-old remains in New England as a member of the practice squad. His skill set makes him a solid depth addition on the perimeter in an X-Receiver role. He has also spent time working on special teams drills; at one point, alongside special teams captain. Matthew Slater.

Having been drafted by the Pats in the seventh-round of the 2021 NFL Draft, Nixon has the distinction of being Ernie Adams’ final draft selection in the Patriots organization. The product of Central Florida has NFL-level speed (he ran the 40 at a time of 4.43) and is able to use his speed to shed defenders at the line. Though he lacks some physicality, he is physical enough to make catches in tight coverage. Nixon could be a promising project in the slot.

Offensive Line (3)

Alex Redmond, Will Sherman, James Ferentz

James Ferentz had a great training camp in 2021. While he may lack versatility as a swing lineman, he will provide quality depth and insurance at center. Sherman could be a swing tackle on both sides, and also has the potential to transition to guard. While Redmond has played predominately on the right side so far during his NFL career, he has the experience to possible also help on the left.

Defensive Backs (2)

D’Angelo Ross, Myles Bryant

It was a bit of a surprise to see Bryant miss the cut on Tuesday. However, he would not be absent from New England for long. The hard-hitting defensive back has continuously played a versatile role with New England. He has taken snaps at free safety, strong safety, slot cornerback and perimeter cornerback. He has even taken eight snaps on the defensive line. Bryant could be a candidate for elevation to the 53-man roster if the Pats find themselves in need of help in the secondary.

Ross began to emerge as a roster contender as camp was drawing to a close. He started at outside cornerback, opposite J.C. Jackson in the Pats preseason finale against the New York Giants. His versatile style makes him a good fit in the Patriots system. Ross is capable of aligning in the slot, as well as on the outside. He can also contribute on special teams.

Defensive Line (2)

Bill Murray, Daniel Ekuale

Murray is a high-energy defensive lineman who performed well during training camp. The College of William and Mary product will provide depth behind the Patriots’ defensive tackles. At his best, Murray can be useful as a sub-package pass rusher, capable of contributing on some run-blocking schemes.

Listed at 6-foot-3, 305-pounds, Ekuale will provide the Pats with sizable depth along the defensive line. He originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with Cleveland in 2018 out of Washington State. He has spent time with the practice squads and 53-man rosters of the both the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars. Overall, he has played in 16 NFL games and has registered 17 total tackles and one sack.

Linebacker (2)

Tashawn Bower, Jahlani Tavai

In any other year, Tashawn Bower’s performance in training camp might have earned him a spot on the Pats’ 53-man roster. However, with tremendous depth at the position, he has been relegated to the practice squad. Still, Bower is poised to make his mark with the Pats in 2021. He is a capable outside linebacker and can also be used in a package-specific pass rush. Should the need arise, he is also efficient at setting the edge in the running game.

Tavai is a sizable linebacker with a plodding playing style that makes him a great fit in New England. The Hawaii product was reportedly a Patriots target in the 2019 NFL Draft. Ultimately, he would be drafted by the Detroit Lions in the second round, playing under then-head-coach (and current Patriots advisor) Matt Patricia.

Special Teams

Nick Folk (1)

While rookie Quinn Nordin has apparently won the starting job at kicker, retaining Folks services is a smart move for the Pats. While the rookie’s leg strength is quite impressive, he has been known to struggle with consistency. Should Nordin falter during the season, Folk provides the reliability necessary to quell any potential problems in the kicking game.