2022 Roster: Can Special Teams Be A Saving Grace For Those On The Fringe?

July 13, 2022
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Who will be on the 53-man roster to start the 2022 season? As we start transitioning from discussing minicamp and optional OTA performance and pivoting into training camp discussions, this will be a crucial question in the minds of players, fans, and coaches.

While a good number of players have their spot on the roster essentially guaranteed, others will be figuring out how to demonstrate their value on the team during camp. In this article, three of these players, who could eventually grow to make a significant impact on the team, will be highlighted.

WR N’Keal Harry

N’Keal Harry’s possibility for a roster spot is likely at a position other than WR – from Getty Images.

What Kind Of Role Brings Harry Onto The Roster?

The mention of this name likely brings groans to Patriots fans. Considering his position in the 2019 draft as a first-rounder, Harry has disappointed, picked over such names as Deebo Samuel and DK Metcalf. While Harry sometimes showed promise with his route running, physicality, and playmaking ability, his career stat line of 57 receptions, 598 yards, and four TD barely cuts it for a season, let alone three seasons. Last year was the worst of his career, with 12 receptions and no touchdowns. With a crowded receiver group this year, it’s clear that receiver is not the position that would get Harry onto the roster.

However, Harry’s physicality, agility across the field, given his size, and blocking ability give some promise. Special teams may be the perfect role for him. His ability to block, if it can transfer beyond his role as a WR, can be beneficial on both sides of the ball during punts and kickoffs, especially given that that blocking ability comes with the speed of a receiver.

Perhaps his best role would be a backup TE and special teamer. However, that blocking ability and size transfers well to the tight end position. Due to the relative lack of production from Dalton Keene and Devin Asiasi, Harry could be considered over them as a third option, even if his primary play time comes on special teams.

Prediction: Will N’Keal Make The Roster?

No. While a positional switch certainly elevates his chances compared to just a receiver, the best thing for New England is to end N’Keal Harry’s career with the team, either by a trade or a cut. It also doesn’t help that with Jakob Johnson’s departure from New England (which leaves no rostered fullback), Dalton Keene may be kept on because of his size and blocking ability to be a hybrid FB/TE for specific play packages.

RB/WR Ty Montgomery

Ty Montgomery comes into New England with a lot of experience and versatility – from Sports Illustrated.

What role can land Ty a roster spot?

Ty Montgomery is one of New England’s relatively unheralded free-agent acquisitions this year but potentially brings a lot to the table. He has a lot of NFL experience and has played in various offensive systems, most recently as a Saint and as a Packer and Raven. He has played several roles in his career, chiefly as a receiver, a running back, and a kick returner. His tape shows his ability to be shifty both with the ball and during routes, catch and run with screens, and catch downfield.

His best season (2016) as a Packer had him catch 44 passes, carry the ball 77 times and return 18 kicks, recording three rushing touchdowns, showing a potential ability to carry a significant offensive load. However, his production has declined quite a bit since then, and there will be questions as to whether he can recover that kind of form. In addition, while he can play two positions, both are crowded and in tough competitions.

The presence of a pass-catching RB in James White, who has been very successful as a Patriot, further undermine’s Montgomery’s potential place in a skill position. However, with the departure of Gunner Olszewski to the Steelers, there is a void in the kick returner/punt returner slot. While he’s no Devin Hester, Ty has run back 57 kicks for an average of 22.4 yards and a long of 46, and his averages most seasons were closer to 30 yards than 20.

His tape shows an ability to take kicks upfield quickly and cut for more yards during returns. As a result, Montgomery’s best bet at a roster spot is likely as a kick-returning option who can also fill James White’s role in the case of injury or form decline.

Prediction: Will Ty Montgomery Make The Roster?

Yes. First of all, there’s a chance that James White may start the season on the PUP list, and in that case, Montgomery could help fill that role. But regardless, his experience, abilities as a returner, and ability to catch and run will be a skill set the Patriots will want to keep around if he shows those skills correctly in camp and preseason.

WR/S Brenden Schooler

Brenden Schooler’s versatility, physicality, and speed could make him a fantastic special teamer – from 247 sports.

What role can land Brenden a roster spot?

Schooler is the only rookie on this list and was taken as an undrafted free agent out of Texas. He had a five-season long college career at Oregon and Texas and at both schools had game time as a safety and a wide receiver. His first season at Oregon was tremendously successful on the defensive end, netting him 47 tackles and four interceptions. However, his production on that side decreased tremendously after that. As a receiver, he totaled 55 receptions and six TD.

Neither the 97 career tackles nor the 55 career receptions scream out as college stat lines that should get a player rostered in the NFL. However, Schooler’s tape shows that at his best, he’s a hard hitter, ball hawk on defense, and a shifty route runner with vertical and horizontal speed as a receiver. He impressed at his pro day, especially with his 40-yard dash time of 4.41.

An ability to play both sides of the ball, athleticism, and a stat line that shows “jack of all trades, master of none” screams special teams, at least to start his career. His physicality, tackling ability, and speed could be extremely useful in limiting kick/punt returns and adding a lot of versatility to the special teams unit. He could also compete with Cody Davis for a potential reserve safety spot, even if his action started out as a special teamer, as he’s likely not ready to be a position player yet.

Prediction: Will Brenden Schooler Make The Roster?

Yes. Ultimately, as much as his experience at safety and receiver showed promise, it’s likely that Belichick’s reason for signing schooler was for his potential as a special teamer, which could be off the charts given the traits he has shown as a player. However, this should be enough to give him a roster spot. Special teams is a significant priority in New England, and special teams coach Cameron Achord should be able to find a way to integrate Schooler nicely into the unit.

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