October 1, 2014

Practice Squad (PS, I Love You)

 logoby Chris Warner
[email protected]

As opposed to NFL draft weekend, which moves at the pace of a Victorian novel (tortoise-like, with too much detail), the frenzy of signing undrafted free agents (UDFAs) gets us involved like a mystery: Where do we get our information? Once we get it, how trustworthy is it? What does it mean?

And why are we spending so much time with it?

As of this writing, New England has picked up seven UDFAs, reviewed below. After those, I’ve included a wish list for Foxboro this summer. My apologies in advance if any one of them has been picked up by another team in the interim.

The new Pats rookies, from the best available info:

P – Mike Dragosavich, North Dakota State

Why undrafted: He’s a punter. The term “specialist” gets thrown around a lot to describe punters, yet they aren’t too hard to come by, apparently. Also, name may prove difficult to fit on the back of a jersey.

PS, the Pats love: Averaged almost 45 yards per punt last year, with a long of 70. Dropped 11 punts within the opponents’ 20. Has experience with lousy weather.

OLB – Vincent Redd, Liberty

Why undrafted: While “Liberty” as a theme is immeasurable, Liberty the school is tiny. Redd played at Virginia but Coach Al Groh dismissed him over undisclosed reasons so he transferred. Lacks upper-body strength.

PS, the Pats love: Redd was named in this space last week as a potential Pats pick-up. (I’ve never been more proud. Sad, really.) He played in Groh’s 3-4 system in Virginia and has textbook size (6-5, 263) and speed (4.63 40) for the position. Might give sixth-rounder Bo Ruud a ruun for his money.

DE – Chris Norwell, Illinois

Why undrafted: Not overly productive (32 total tackles) for a less-than-great team. Lacks speed. Unflattering facial hair.

PS, the Pats love: Has ideal 3-4 end measurements (6-6, 295). Had strong games against Michigan and Iowa (five tackles each), and probably hit the Patriots’ radar while they watched films of players on those teams.

TE – Jon Stupar, Virginia

Why undrafted: Has suffered some injuries. Just under ideal height at 6-3. Not the most stout on the line of scrimmage. Only the second-best all-around TE out of UVA this year (Tom Santi was drafted in the sixth by the Colts. Which is fine. I never liked him anyway).

PS, the Pats love: Broke out in his senior season with 40 receptions (actually four more than Santi). Comes from a TE-friendly system. Has been called a high-character guy.

C – Ryan Wendell, Fresno State

Why undrafted: Small (6-2, 286) and slow (5.35 40). Lacks great strength and athleticism. Fresno State plays in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), which isn’t a top-tier league.

PS, the Pats love: Started all four years at guard or center. Has solid technique and knows how to use leverage in one-on-one battles. Could fit as a back-up lineman with position flexibility, much like Russ Hochstein.

RB – Kenny Cattouse, Troy

Why undrafted: Gained less than 800 yards for Troy. The Trojans share a mascot name with USC but not their reputation for talent. Unremarkable size at 5-10, 205. Last name has similar spelling to a place of ill repute.

PS, the Pats love: These Trojans don’t run much, but Cattouse still managed to gain 5.9 yards per carry. Also caught 37 passes for 235 yards (6.4 avg.), making him worth a look as a third-down back.

OT – Josh Coffman, East Carolina

Why undrafted: A little light at 292 pounds, Coffman lacks a reputation as a path-blazing lineman. Has played tackle for only two years: went to ECU as a tight end but took a redshirt season after his sophomore year to put on 40 pounds (Take that, “Freshman 15”).

PS, the Pats love: Coffman’s height (6-7) gives him a lot of potential. Though not powerful, he has good speed and quickness. His reach makes him a promising pass-blocker.

DL – Casey Tyler, Portland State

Why undrafted: Played well at the Division II level, but may not have the ability to measure up in the pros. Since when is Portland a state?

PS, the Pats love: At 6-5, 305, Tyler has the size to play a 3-4 DE or 4-3 tackle. Had 43 stops and three sacks his senior year. Possesses solid straight-line speed to get around the edge.

With only one or two spaces left for this spring’s 80-man roster, New England can keep slots open for potential free agents signings or fill them with fresh-faced rooks. Below, five UDFAs to mull over:

RB – Hugh Charles, Colorado

Why undrafted: Diminutive at 5-8, 190, he played for a losing team (6-7) and, as a starter, compiled less than 1,000 yards rushing in 2007. Also, has two first names.

PS, I love him: Gained 5.3 yards per carry and caught 24 passes. Strong (25 reps of 225) and fast (4.43 40), with insane leaps (36.5 inch vertical).

WR – Paul Raymond, Brown

Why undrafted: “Small” reasons, including his stature (5-8) and school. Just a coincidence, but again: two first names. Might be more of a track sprinter than a football player.

PS, I love him: Fastest guy in the Ivy League, which is a little like being the smartest guy in dummy camp, but whatever. Notable quickness and return experience make him a Bam-Childress-in-waiting, the type of player who hangs around and forces coaches to consider him.

OLB – Curtis Gatewood, Vanderbilt

Why undrafted: Played DE in college, but at 6-2, 242, lacks ideal size for a 3-4 OLB. Doesn’t have great upper-body strength. Name sounds like a preppy movie character played by James Spader.

PS, I love him: With his quickness, would perform well on special teams and could contribute in pass-rushing situations.

CB – Jonathan Zenon, LSU

Why undrafted: Slow and a little stiff. Not the best tackler. When spelled with an “X,” last name merely becomes an inert gas.

PS, I love him: Played for the champion Tigers; started for three years. Has the knack for being around the ball. High Randall Gay factor.

K – Chris Gould, Virginia

Why undrafted: See the “K” next to his name? He’s a kicker. Who drafts kickers? (Oops.) Also, needs to work on his accuracy.

PS, I love him: His older brother Robbie kicks for the Bears – very well, we might add – and spent the 2005 camp with the Pats. It says here that Belichick has rued cutting the older Gould in favor of keeping Adam “Veni, Vidi, Vici” Vinatieri, who a year later moved to the creatively-named Indianapolis (roughly translated: The City of Indiana).

We will know more by the end of the week. And by “more,” I mean “possibly something, but don’t get your hopes up.”

Comments

  1. Notice a number of players from Virginia & Fresno State. How important is the recommendations from former BB/Patriots coaches (Al Grogh / Pat Hill)when drafting or signing UDFA’s? How common is this throughout the NFL?

  2. Dragosavich is my binky for the UDFAs now. I hoped the Pats would take a stab at him in the 7th before they traded their pick away, so I was quite happy to see him get signed. That would be 2 out of 6 guys I really wanted to see make the roster from this draft (Crable being the other) latch on with the Pats. Now, hopefully the Rams will cut Roy Schuening and the Pats will nab him…

  3. Chris – My only thought on that is, esp. when it comes to low-risk UDFAs, it just makes good sense to get a character reference from a college coach. I would think that friends and former colleagues would be more willing to be straightforward than a coach preaching his player’s talents.

    Richter – I think BB really wants to get a young punter who can stick with the team for a long time and solidify the special teams units for years to come. Dragosovich has as good a shot as any. Hope he does well.

  4. Gary Guyton is the one guy I am excited about. If he loses 20lbs and maintains or improves his speed (4.47), he could make a terrific safety/ special team player. This guy is an athletic freak!

  5. Hey, don’t make fun of my employer “Portland State University.” BTW, just a little background about a connection between PSU & BB. I’m currently reading David Halberstam’s “The Education of a Coach” and in the book they mention that when BB worked for the Detroit Lions some 30 years ago he worked with Jerry Glanville, who was the special team’s coach. So, guess who’s the head coach at PSU — none other than Jerry Glanville. It’s interesting to read about the many connections BB has around the country from his many years of coaching and through his dad.

    BTW, I am from the Boston area and a lifelong 65-year Red Sox fan and a fanatic lover of football and a pats fan. I really enjoy your site and read it regularly. Just thought this info about Glanville might be interesting to a fan like yourself.
    Take care, Claire

  6. Claire, Thanks for the info on Glanville. It goes to the previous point about knowing college coaches: a little extra background doesn’t hurt.
    I’d never make fun of Portland State. That’s a beautiful part of the country. (Maine, right? No, come on, I kid. I hear nothing but good things about Oregon.)
    Thanks for writing in.
    CW

  7. “DE – Chris Norwell, Illinois

    Why undrafted: Not overly productive (32 total tackles) for a less-than-great team. Lacks speed. **Unflattering facial hair.**”

    When I saw it, I admit my first thought was, “Are they planning to convert him to an OL?”

    K – Chris Gould, Virginia

    Why undrafted: See the “K” next to his name? He’s a kicker. Who drafts kickers? (Oops.) Also, needs to work on his accuracy.

    PS, I love him: His older brother Robbie kicks for the Bears – very well, we might add – and spent the 2005 camp with the Pats. It says here that Belichick has rued cutting the older Gould in favor of keeping **Adam “Veni, Vidi, Vici” Vinatieri,** who a year later moved to the creatively-named Indianapolis (roughly translated: The City of Indiana).

    I believe you meant Vinatraitor. :)

  8. Richter says:

    Dragosavich might have been undrafted, but he’s not unsigned any longer. Hope he has a great training camp and puts some pressure on the vets. We could use a solid leg to give the position some continuity for at least a few years.

Leave a Reply