In Foxborough Massachusetts, there is a thin line between glory and anonymity. On that line live Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. They are the Rock Stars. Then you have the big game guys; Edelman, McCourty, your contributors; Develin, Andrews. Then you have The Other Guys…
So who are the Patriots “Other Guys”? Most are Special Teamers or 2ndstring players that only the most devout Patriots fan would recognise. They might not get the accolades that their other teammates get, but their contributions are no less significant when it comes to game preparation or on the field play. Some of these players will be inactive on game day, but their job may have already been done as part of the scout team during the week.
As the Patriots prepare for Super Bowl LIII, it takes a full roster of 53 players to win the game. So we will take a look at the more unheralded members of this 2018 Patriots team.
22 – Obi Melinfonwu – Strong Safety
If you look up “recent draft busts” in Google, it won’t take you long to find English-born Melinfonwu. Drafted towards the end of the 2ndround in only 2017, he missed most of his rookie season through injury before being released at the start of this season. Apparently Jon Gruden didn’t have a plan for a Strong Safety with rare size and attributes in Oakland. He is 6ft 4”, 225lbs and can run a 4.40 40-yard dash.
The Patriots signed Obi in November 2018. One thing that will endear him to Patriots fans is that he attended high school in Grafton, MA and is a huge Patriots fan. So far, he has remained largely inactive but has featured at times on Special Teams. He strikes me as the type of player that Coach Belichick thinks he can do something with given some time in the Patriots system. I would expect him to be inactive for the Super Bowl but keep an eye out for him during the 2019 preseason.
35 – Keion Crossen – Cornerback
If you have watched the Patriots Kick-off coverage this year, there is a re-occurring theme to it. The ball is kicked, the camera pans to the returner, almost immediately #35 from the Patriots is in the picture. Basically Crossen is quick, reallyquick. The penultimate pick in this years draft class for the Patriots, the 7throunder has been a contributor on Special Teams and has also found his way onto the field for Defensive snaps too. In the AFC Championship game against the Chiefs, he was used at times to cover Tyreek Hill, (with help).
The rumour surrounding the drafting of Crossen is that he wasn’t on any draft boards until he ran his 40-yard dash at his Pro Day – a 4.32 effort. His other drills were impressive too which led to a pre-draft workout with the Patriots and the Bills. As I alluded to earlier, Crossen’s athleticism meant that he was a prime candidate to cover arguably the NFL’s best athlete in Tyreek Hill. Whilst he has some way to go before he becomes an accomplished Corner Back, in Crossen and JC Jackson, the future is looking bright. Expect Crossen to be active and maybe part of the game plan to shut down Josh Reynolds.
36 – Brandon King – Linebacker
I am going to go out on a limb here and say that Brandon King is the most anonymous long-tenured player on the Patriots. Finishing up his fourth season with the Patriots, the undrafted Linebacker out of Auburn is at this point exclusively a Special-Teamer. Although listed as a Linebacker, at 220lbs he was a Safety coming out of College and also played at Defensive End.
Over his four seasons he has notched up 42 tackles and a Safety but one of his most impressive statistics is his longevity. He is the joint 13thlongest tenured Patriot currently on the roster. Every year he is earmarked to be cut by analysts trying to predict the roster before the season begins. Every year he proves them wrong. King as always will be active for the Super Bowl.
49 – Joe Cardona – Long Snapper
One of those players tied with King for the 13thlongest tenured is Joe Cardona. The Navy alum was picked by the Patriots in the 5thround in 2015 and has been a mainstay ever since. After initially struggling in his first two seasons at times, Cardona has been automatic ever since, and signed a new 4-year deal this offseason.
If you are looking for key traits from your Long Snapper, consistency and availability are two that are always going to on top of the list. I suppose the best thing you can say about your Long Snapper is that he is anonymous, that way he is not making headlines for all the wrong reasons.
50 – Ramon Humber – Linebacker
If you recognise Humber’s name and thought, didn’t he get cut two years ago, you would be right. He made an appearance again this season after being released by the Bills. Since then he has featured predominantly on Special Teams for the Patriots but has the ability to play on Defence if required.
Having featured heavily on Defence for the Bills in 2017, his playing time was cut this season drastically to that of a backup. He will most likely be active on Super Bowl Sunday and don’t be surprised if he is on the field for a few snaps on Defence. The ten-year veteran has experience on his side but maybe not the talent of the other Inside Linebackers. Expect Humber to be a casualty of the roster when Ja’Whaun Bentley gains full fitness in 2019.
55 – John Simon – Defensive End
The former 4thround pick by the Ravens in 2013 out of Ohio State has had somewhat of a nomadic existence. On his fourth team in six seasons, the Patriots signed Simon in late September with little fan fare despite being a relatively productive player in his limited playing time.
Simon has quietly gone about his business and has actually featured quite regularly for the Patriots as a 3rddown pass rusher and has picked up 2 sacks and 17 tackles. There has been a veritable merry-go-round at Defensive End, with one of Clayborn, Davis and Rivers often being inactive on game-day, Simon has found himself above them in the pecking order. Whilst he might not be a big name, he has made plays and shown up regularly in the opposing Offences’ backfield. Keep an eye out for 55 on Sunday.
58 – Keionta Davis – Defensive End
Davis was considered a long shot to make the roster coming out of training camp having spent his rookie year on Injured Reserve. But make the roster he did and he started off the season quite well, seeing a lot of the field early on, starting in 3 games. He failed to really make a consistent impact and has been largely inactive in the second half of the season.
Davis was projected to be a mid-round pick out of Chattanooga in 2017, but a back injury meant that the Patriots managed to pick him up as an undrafted free agent. The coaching staff clearly like him and see some potential. When the Defensive Line failed to get pressure early on and also struggled with the run, Davis’ playing time decreased. He still managed to stay on the roster rather than being cut and moved to the Practice Squad, so Davis can take that as a positive.
59 – Albert McClellan – Linebacker
(Cris Collinsworth voice) “Now, here’s a guy you may have heard of”. McClellan is a 9-year veteran of the NFL having spent 8 of those years with the Ravens, often as backup to Ray Lewis. He might be a backup on the Defensive side of the ball, but it is Special Teams where he really excels.
The Patriots really caught lightening in a bottle with McClellan after the Ravens cut him in October of this season. He was named as a PFF All-Pro as a Special Teams player having blocked two punts (in one game against the Dolphins) and also having a recovery in the Divisional Round game against the Chargers.
McClellan will be active on game day and he will also see some time on Defence as cover for Hightower and Van Noy.
66 – James Ferentz – Centre
Son of the Iowa coach Kirk, Ferentz whilst new to the Patriots, has been in the league since 2014 when he signed with the Texans. Super Bowl LIII will not be his first appearance at the “big dance” as he was a part of the Offensive Line that carried Peyton Manning to his Super Bowl victory with Denver.
Ferentz was signed as the swing Interior Lineman when Brian Schwenke was moved to Injured Reserve with a foot injury. He has been perennially inactive since November and I would not expect that to change given the consistency and the health of the Patriots’ Guards and Centre this season.
68 – LaAdrian Waddle – Offensive Tackle
The man fondly referred to, as L.A. will be facing his namesake in the Rams on Sunday. The Tackle is a veteran of four seasons with the Patriots having started his journey in Detroit. As backup Offensive Tackles go, Waddle is probably one of the better ones. He had the opportunity in 2017 to go up against some of the best NFL pass-rushers and more than held his own against them.
He signed a 1-year $1.75m deal this offseason and considering his value as a competent reliable backup, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back again next season. The big strength of Waddle is that he has looked adept at both Right and Left Tackle, which is not an easy thing to do. Waddle will be active on game day but will be riding the pine unless an injury happens to Brown or Cannon
80 – Stephen Anderson– Tight End
Anderson was called up to the active roster this season to replace Jacob Hollister who had struggled to stay fit all season. Like Hollister, Anderson is more of a “move” Tight End and has a smaller frame and differing skillset to Gronkowski and Allen.
He has yet to feature in a game for the Patriots but they could throw in a wrinkle as an extra pass-catching option for Tom Brady. He will most likely be inactive for the Super Bowl but his 2017 season showed a lot of promise, catching 25 passes for 342 yards and a Touchdown. It was surprising therefore that he was released by the Texans, a team not exactly blessed with talent at that position.
97 – Ufomba Kamalu – Defensive Tackle
The final player on the list, Kamalu signed with the Patriots Practice Squad in early November and was moved to the active roster in late December. Similar to Adam Butler in his body type, the 6ft, 6”, 300lb Kamalu is more of a rangy interior rusher than the heavier run stoppers that the Patriots are more known for at the Defensive Tackle position.
Since joining the team, he has featured in two games and made one tackle. Expect him to be inactive on Sunday. His usage will depend on whether the Patriots feel his skillset will be useful against the excellent LA Rams Offensive interior of Saffold, Sullivan and Blythe.
–Luke O’Brien is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @LukeObrienNFL