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Patriots: Practice squad players to watch for 2020 season

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These Patriots practice squad players could make an impact in 2020.

Most seasons, the Patriots practice squad tends to be made up of forgettable players who will never see the field in an actual game. They’re players on the downside of their careers, or former collegiate standouts whose careers never got off the ground.

That isn’t to say that the practice squad isn’t important. These players are hardworking, essentially acting as tackling dummies for the starters all season long. They also need to be versatile players who are able to replicate looks from Lamar Jackson to Patrick Mahomes to Ben Roethlisberger.

So, no, you likely don’t know their names on a year in, year out basis. Still, they’re important members of any organization.

2020 has been a different beast altogether. COVID-19 has made it so that depth is at a premium. There was even some talk of expanding rosters beyond their 53-man limit because of potential disruptions to rosters from COVID-19. That didn’t happen, but it does make the odds practice squad players find themselves suiting up for actual games much more likely.

Normally, these important players are designed to remain unknowns. Today, they may need to step up as known entities. These are the practice squad players to look out for in 2020.

Myles Bryant

Myles Bryant was signed as an undrafted rookie following this 2020 NFL Draft. The defensive back played his college football at Washington, where he had 3 interceptions as a senior.

Over the course of his entire college career, where he saw significant action in three seasons, Bryant had 15 passes defended and 177 tackles.

Defensive back Myles Bryant #5 of the Washington Huskies tackles Brady Russell #38 of the Colorado Buffaloes at Husky Stadium on October 20, 2018 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Coming into the NFL, Bryant was known for his play at the line of scrimmage. He’s strong in press coverage and attacks downhill. He also gets off blocks better than you’d expect a defensive back to be able to. Bryant’s speed, more than anything, lets him close on receivers and balls that he’s attacking.

However, the biggest knock on Bryant is his size. He’s only 5-9 and 185 pounds. That could be generous, too. It’s simply hard to compete with NFL receivers and tight ends when they tower over you. That isn’t to say shorter players can’t succeed, but it’s harder. He doesn’t have the strength to compete with stronger receivers and has a tendency to get beat downfield. That’s why he fits into the practice squad.

Xavier Williams

One of the few guys who has actual game experience, Xavier Williams has played in over 40 games in his career. Starting with Arizona, then playing on Kansas City for the past couple of seasons, Williams will be some very necessary depth on the defensive line for the Patriots.

An interior defensive lineman by trade, Williams stands at 6-2 and 309 pounds. That’s exactly the type of size you’re looking for out of a defensive lineman, whose entire job is to take up blockers. Ideally, he shoots a gap, forcing two offensive linemen to block him at once due to his sheer mass. This opens a gap for linebackers to shoot into.

Though he does have extensive experience, playing in the NFL for six seasons now, Williams doesn’t have stats that jump off the page. He has 83 tackles, four of which were tackles for loss, on his career.

Williams, more than anyone else, will be a likely candidate to move up to the 53-man roster if there are any extended absences from the defensive line.

Bill Murray

Not to be confused with the comedic actor, Bill Murray is a rookie out of William & Mary. During Murray’s time at William & Mary, he dominated the CAA from the defensive line. He had 143 tackles and 19 sacks, to go along with 6 passes defended. It’s not surprising the the Tribe captain was also a two time All-CAA selection.

Murray could also make a mark on special teams, which we all know Bill Belichick and the Patriots take very seriously. In the course of his college career, Murray was able to block 10 kicks.

An explosive pass rusher, Murray was able to dominate CAA offensive lines by simply being faster than them. He’s just not strong enough to beat NFL offensive linemen right now, because he can’t rely on his athleticism to simply run past them anymore.

It’s fair to point out that playing in the FCS was more than a couple steps behind the talent Murray will see in the NFL, even on a practice squad. However, he’s all potential. His size, 6-4 and 265 pounds, makes him a good size as a hybrid edge rusher. If he can develop his strength to attack offensive linemen on the pass rush and develop technique to play a little bit of coverage, then Murray may be able to make a mark for the Patriots.

Jake Burt

A native of Lynnfield who comes to the Patriots out of Boston College, Jake Burt offers a unique option from the tight end position. His college stats weren’t exactly dominant, but you can argue it wasn’t his fault. He only played in seven games as a senior, where he caught 15 passes for 14.1 yards per catch. This was in a Boston College offense that emphasized the power running game and had a walk on quarterback for half the season.

So nothing to jump out at you, but not awful either.

Patriots

Jake Burt #84 of the Boston College Eagles watches helplessly as a pass is thrown over his head by Jeff Smith #5 during the second half against the Syracuse Orange on November 28, 2015 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeats Boston College 20-17. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

Burt was a dominant run blocker in college. That could end up being incredibly important for a Patriots team that has depth issues at tight end and on the offensive line. In a pinch, he could fill in at either spot, though preferably things would never get so bad that he would need to kick down to tackle.

If Burt can prove he can stay healthy, he has the blocking ability and receiving potential to justify bringing him onto the roster as a third tight end for short-yardage situations. He’ll need to prove that on the practice field first, though.

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Buffalo Bills: Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano return to practice

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Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds, who missed the game due to injuries.

The good news for the Buffalo Bills is that both were able to get back onto the practice field on Wednesday in some capacity. While this doesn’t guarantee they will be available for this week’s game, this is a big step in the right direction.

Buffalo Bills have seven players not practice on Wednesday

While Edmunds and Milano returned on a limited basis, the Buffalo Bills had seven players miss practice on Wednesday. In this group was wide receiver Cole Beasley, running back Zack Moss, tight end Dawson Knox, defensive end Jerry Hughes, defensive tackle Ed Oliver, linebacker Del’Shawn Phillips, and cornerback Taron Johnson.

This was certainly the most players to miss practice so far this season for the Buffalo Bills. However, some teams try to use Wednesday as a rest day, especially for some veterans. If some of these players miss tomorrow’s practice then their availability against the Los Angeles Rams certainly would be more in question.

Next: 4 Rams the Bills will need to gameplan for in Week 3

The other big name on this injury report was cornerback Tre’Davious White, who was limited on Wednesday due to a shoulder injury.

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Bengals: How Zac Taylor can turn around the red zone offense

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Zac Taylor and the Cincinnati Bengals must improve their red-zone offensive performances if they are to turn things around.

The bad news is that the Cincinnati Bengals are 0-2 on the season. The good news is that both games were decided by less than a touchdown and the club had chances in both contests to come away with a win.

If the franchise is going to come away with their first victory of 2020 this week, Zac Taylor has to make several adjustments for their game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Chief among them is putting Joe Burrow in better situations in the red-zone.

Currently, the Bengals are converting their red-zone possessions into touchdowns just 40% of the time. This is good for the third-worst percentage in the NFL, and one of the biggest contributors to leaving points on the field.

The offense was 0-1 against the Chargers in what resulted in a frustrating loss and was 2-4 against the Browns. This kind of percentage will make life more difficult for Burrow, especially when the defense is struggling to stop the rush. This is not a new issue for Cincinnati, but it is one that the offensive coaching staff could have some solutions for.

Getting Joe Burrow out of the pocket will be key for the Bengals

One design scheme that could help the situation is to roll Joe Burrow out of the pocket when they get closer to the goal line. As passing lanes get tighter, the defense can bring more pressure and impact the young signal-caller’s ability to read the defense.

Rolling him away from pressure will not only give him more time, but it increases the probability that he will be able to use his legs. Burrow showed in the opening touchdown of his career that he can run effectively and Zac Taylor needs to utilize that more.

The other thing that rolling him out of the pocket will do is cause the defense to pause knowing that he is more of a threat to run the ball. A slight delay is all A.J. Green or Tyler Boyd will need to create separation and get open in the endzone.

With an offensive line that is struggling, the Bengals cannot count on Burrow having the time he needs, but instead need to get more creative when points are so close. If Taylor can minimize the offensive line’s impact by rolling Burrow out, Cincinnati should get more touchdowns and end on the right side of the scoreboard.

Next: If no one else will, Zac Taylor has to protect Joe Burrow

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It’s the dawn of a new day for the LA Chargers franchise

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The LA Chargers have entered a new era.

It’s a new day for LA Chargers football, folks. Even though it came unexpectedly and without warning, Justin Herbert was the main attraction this past Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs and fate did Anthony Lynn‘s work for him in bringing him the new franchise quarterback Charger fans knew they had on a silver platter.

Before I start on Herbert, I have to acknowledge the fact that what went down Sunday came at Tyrod Taylor‘s expense. The guy has been a hard worker in this league for nine years now and has the utmost respect of his peers, so much in fact that he’s been named the starting quarterback twice over an early first-round pick in his career.

This is not to be taken as a diss at him, but rather a silver lining for this Chargers franchise. It’s unfortunate that Herbert got his chance to show his stuff under these certain circumstances, but everything happens for a reason, and I believe now the door is open for this team to go further than it expected to going into this year.

We all expected Herbert to be held off for at least the first month or so of the regular season, perhaps even longer than that. Some even thought he wouldn’t play at all.

But this past Sunday was a sign from the football gods that the time to move forward with your next franchise quarterback is now for the Bolts.

RELATED: The ramifications of Tyrod Taylor’s punctured lung

The days of Aaron Rodgers sitting behind Brett Favre for years before getting his chance are long gone. Rookie quarterbacks are coming into the league more ready than ever to take over starting roles.

From Andrew Luck to Baker Mayfield to Russell Wilson to Joe Burrow and countless others, franchises these days have an obligation to do what is best for the team and go with the best quarterback on their roster for the starting gig.

Putting your team in the best position to win games is paramount, and younger quarterbacks have increasingly and consistently showed a knack for being able to give their franchise the best chance to be competitive. On this level, youth at the position is proving to be growing the game.

Justin Herbert is no different. He was absolutely sensational in his NFL debut going toe-to-toe with the might Chiefs and golden boy Patrick Mahomes giving the defending champs a scare they needed early in this 2020 campaign.

A few mistakes made by Herbert in this game will get doubters to question his readiness, but there’s no doubt in my mind this LA Chargers team was in great hands this past Sunday and will continue to be if Herbert is named the full-fledged starter the rest of the way.

We now have an interesting team in the AFC West and AFC in general because…….folks…….Herbert can play. Big arm. Sneaky athleticism. Believe it or not, shows up in key situations despite his naysayers pointing to his bad Auburn game in college to try and prove otherwise.

Like I said before, fate did Anthony Lynn’s job for him. Herbert wasn’t supposed to play in this game and the Bolts were forced to throw in their rookie quarterback, who did fantastic against the defending champs.

Now the pressure is off Lynn of when exactly he’ll move to Herbert. His decision has been made crystal clear. I know he wants to look out for Tyrod, but the right thing to do here is to keep rolling with the rookie QB and put your team in playoff contention like Herbert proved he can do this past Sunday. This isn’t a Hue Jackson-Baker Mayfield situation where the coach is trying to keep his job and doesn’t want to start the clock on his number one pick QB.

I’ll be honest with you guys, the LA Chargers didn’t really do it for me this season when I was making my preseason predictions. They seemed very clearly to me like a team in-between relativity and obscurity with a bridge quarterback in Tyrod Taylor to help get them over the hump into 2021.

But now that I’ve seen what Herbert can do, this is a team I’m excited about moving forward this season. Sometimes sitting works out for young high-draft quarterbacks. I mean, just look at Patrick Mahomes. However, I feel in this day and age of the sport, the higher likelihood is that they will be successful if you start them right away.

Herbert will go through rough patches this year, but ultimately, I believe the Chargers will be in a much better situation than they would have been had they gone strictly Tyrod this entire season.

Next: Getting to know the Carolina Panthers

Charger fans, the future of your franchise came a day early. Through unfortunate means, yes. But now we all know what the mystery rookie quarterback is capable of, and so do the LA Chargers staff. This is ultimately going to work out for the best.

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