In the wake of their 35-29 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week Six of the 2021 NFL Season, the New England Patriots continue their efforts to improve upon their 2-4 record. On Tuesday, the team made several roster moves, designed to enhance their chances of progressing toward playoff contention. From roster additions to free agent visits, Patriot Maven analyzes the moves and the movies behind Tuesday’s roster transactions.
Signing DB Myles Bryant to the 53-Man Roster
The 23-year-old first signed with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent, following the 2020 NFL Draft. Bryant appeared in nine games as a rookie to total 12 tackles and an interception, playing both at cornerback and at safety. In 2021, Bryant has served both as a standard elevation and a COVID-19 replacement, earning two tackles (with one tackle-for-loss) through 19 downs in the Patriots’ defensive backfield.
Following the trade of Stephon Gilmore to the Carolina Panthers, the Patriots find themselves in need of help in the secondary. With rookie cornerback Shaun Wade continuing to recover from a concussion (as well as the struggles of reserve corner Joejuan Williams) the Pats will look to Bryant for assistance. 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 limited snaps on the defensive line. With the Pats expected to heavily employ multiple defensive backs against some of the league’s top quarterbacks in the coming weeks, Bryant should provide some versatility to the Patriots defensive backfield.
Signing K Riley Patterson to the Practice Squad:
Rookie kicker Riley Patterson appeared in 52 games for the Memphis Tigers during his collegiate career. He connected on 64-of-83 field goals, his longest coming from 56 yards. Patterson made 240 extra points and took part in 295 kickoffs. He earned an invitation to the Reese’s Senior Bowl, where he would be named the top specialist for the National team. Though Patterson went undrafted earlier this year, he was signed by the Minnesota Vikings. He spent the better part of the summer with the Vikes, before reaching a settlement and being waived from injured reserve in August.
New England has been interested in Patterson’s services for the past few weeks. He first visited Foxboro for a free agent visit on September 30, and again on Friday, October 15. Incumbent Patriots kicker Nick Folk has recently been listed as both ‘limited’ and ‘questionable’ on recent injury reports, due to a left knee issue. Rookie Quinn Nordin remains on injured reserve due to an abdomen injury. With Folk likely needing some assistance with the kicking duties in practice, Patterson should be a welcome addition to the practice squad.
Hosting Nick Thurman, Austin Watkins for Free-Agent Visits
Defensive lineman Nick Thurman visited the Patriots on Tuesday, while wide receiver Austin Watkins was hosted by the team for a workout.
Thurman reverted to New England’s injured reserve before reaching an injury settlement in September. The 6-foot-4, 305-pound University of Houston product originally entered the league with the Houston Texans as an undrafted free agent in 2018. Following a brief stay with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the 26-year-old agreed to terms with the Patriots, with whom he spent the entirety of 2019 on the practice squad. Thurman appeared in seven games as a standard elevation and member of the active roster in 2020. He made one start, taking 120 defensive snaps while compiling 10 tackles.
Watkins signed with the San Francisco 49ers in May, after going undrafted in the 2021 NFL Draft. The 23-year-old rookie receiver was waived from injured reserve during training camp. Watkins was named second-team All-Conference USA as a redshirt junior in 2019 after totaling 57 receptions for 1,092 yards and six touchdowns. In just seven games in 2020, he earned first-team All-Conference USA, compiling 34 receptions for 468 yards with three touchdowns. 6-foot-3, 210-pound wideout became the first UAB Blazer to attend the Reese’s Senior Bowl since 2012.
With Chase Winovich headed to injured reserve, the Patriots may be looking to increase their depth at defensive end. While Winovich may be most effective when aligning at outside linebacker, he is often deployed on the edge at defensive end. Thurman’s familiarity with the Patriots system makes him an intriguing option, should the Patriots choose to re-enlist his services.
Watkins is a sizable receiver that can maneuver in the open field. Though the Patriots practice squad already employs Kristian Wilkerson and rookie Tre Nixon, Watkins could be an interesting choice, if the Pats wish to enhance their depth at the receiver position.
The Patriots welcome the New York Jets for the second of two meetings between the division rivals on Sunday, October 24, at 1:00pm ET at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.