The Patriots completed their first practice week of training camp on Wednesday, smoothing things out with their first unprotected session since the weekend. While it was a slight downturn after two days of cushioned action, there remains a collection of lesser-known players who stand out and make an early case for a roster spot.
Here are five of those players who have prepared well for next week’s first preseason game against the Giants and the following week of joint practice sessions against the Panthers.
arlingtonhambright — Few probably noticed when the Patriots signed Hambright to a futures contract in mid-January 2022, but he’s been showing up well as his opportunities have increased. During practice Tuesday, we had Hambright down 2 wins and 0 losses during one-on-one blocking drills. A 2020 seventh-round pick of the University of Colorado Bears, Hambright was a left tackle in college who transitioned to guard. His athleticism is a huge asset and probably the reason the Patriots have been watching him more closely on the inside in recent practices. With some uncertainty about offensive line depth, Hambright should see plenty of joint practices and preseason replays with a chance to earn a spot.
LaBryan Ray – An undrafted rookie who battled injuries throughout his career at Alabama, Ray has been a handful for blockers since they put on pads, displaying good burst and power. We plotted his reps one by one on Tuesday and he came away with a perfect 4-0 record, defeating Bill Murray, Carl Davis and Yodny Cajuste twice. The Patriots didn’t make many additions to their defensive front this offseason, with Ray and sixth-round pick Sam Roberts the only two new faces to join the position group. He, along with Daniel Ekuale, represent potential pass rush complements to Christian Barmore, who has been dominant during the first week of training camp. of rays scouting report he also mentioned his ability to make two space, adding an intriguing layer of what an eventual three-down defensive lineman could be if he wanted to stay healthy and continue to rack up hit practices. Like all rookies, he’s going to have his ups and downs over the next three weeks, but if he continues to be as disruptive as he’s been, he could be the last undrafted rookie to make the team.
Anfernee Jennings – Another former member of the Alabama Crimson Tide, Jennings was thrown into the fire in 2020, playing a third of the defensive snaps and just over a quarter of the special teams snaps, but then missed the entirety of 2021 due to injury not disclosed. Now back and healthy, Jennings has brought some stamina to the early practices of training camp, showing good physicality and perturbation in team periods. With some second-tier rotation, Jennings could develop into a rotational forward who has the size to endure the run and the toughness to be productive as a pass-rusher.
“Yeah, the big thing about Anfernee is that it’s out there,” head coach Bill Belichick said before Wednesday’s session. “So he’s been out there every day. He’s working. Of course, if you’re working, you’re improving. It’s good to have him out there and he’s made progress every day. He’s going to have good opportunities in the future.” in the near future along with other guys in that position and we’ll see how it turns out. But it’s nice to have him there.”
“Obviously it was tough not being able to play football for the first time in 17 years, but I’m blessed to have the opportunity to be here again,” Jennings said after practice Wednesday. “I’m making the most of it.”
Ty Montgomery – Maybe it’s a little strange to have an eight-year NFL veteran as an “under the radar” player, but Montgomery has been extremely involved this summer while James White remains on the PUP roster and rookie Pierre Strong is limited . It was clear when the Patriots signed him that Montgomery was his versatile type of player, one who played running back and receiver in the NFL as well as kick returners. He, too, has done all of those things for New England through the first seven practices and has shown a knack for finding the edge of defense and turning the ball upfield.
“Ty is another guy who had a very good offseason for us,” Bill Belichick said Wednesday. “Again, he’s a player we’re just getting to know, trying to get familiar with his skill set, what he can do. He’s quite versatile. He seems like he can do a lot. We’ll see how that all goes together. But he’s a smart kid, he’s a good learner. We’ll see how he does in the kicking game and in a few different roles on offense and go from there.”
brendan’s student – LaBryan Ray isn’t the only undrafted rookie to stand out a bit, as Brendan Schooler has been a fixture in the special teams pool and has also gotten quality reps at safety despite the significant depth within the position group. Anyone familiar with Schooler’s background as a receiver and defensive back in college shouldn’t be surprised to find a triphasic player turning heads in New England. Despite a stacked security group, Schooler’s special teams prowess can’t be ignored, as the Patriots have some big roles to fill. Schooler could be the last special teams stud to make a career with the Patriots.