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Wednesday Patriots Notebook 8/23: News and Notes

Ian Logue
Ian Logue on Twitter
1 month ago at 11:28 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots News

Wednesday Patriots Notebook 8/23: News and NotesBrian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Some news and notes for this morning:

Third Quarterback Rule Changes Things

With roster cutdowns looming for the New England Patriots less than a week from now, the team will certainly have some difficult decisions to make.

Wide receiver and safety seem to be groups that could be the most difficult ones, with New England finding itself with a decent amount of talent but only so many roster spots to fit them into.

The third quarterback rule that was elaborated on by the league on Monday sort of muddies the water a bit, especially when it comes to one of the Patriots rookies.  After what we’ve seen from Malik Cunningham this preseason, his role appears to be something the league took note of.

Cunningham, who has worked mostly at receiver this preseason while receiving a handful of snaps under center in his one game against Houston, seems to be just the person the league outlined the new rule around.

According to the rule, the third quarterback has to be an active player on the 53-man roster, although that player won’t count against the game-day limit.  However, he’ll only be able to play if the other two quarterbacks aren’t available.

But the next part complicates things, especially when it comes to Cunningham.  According to, the memo that was sent out to all the teams on Monday said that whoever the third quarterback is must be a “bona fide” quarterback, not a player at some other position, to be the emergency quarterback.

So how Cunnigham is ultimately labeled by the team will also come into play.

“This rule is enacted to protect the integrity of the game and is intended only for bona fide quarterbacks. Compliance with the spirit of this rule is required and appreciated,” the memo concludes. “A club found in willful violation of this rule will be disciplined under the Policy on Integrity of the Game and Enforcement of League Policies.”

Needless to say, with Cunningham having been a notable player this preseason while working in multiple roles, this feels an awful lot like someone in New York has been keeping an eye on what Bill Belichick and the Patriots have been up to this preseason.

As a result, this new bit of information will probably affect next week’s cutdowns and likely removes Cunningham from potentially affecting the receiver depth chart.  At least, unless the club plans on not keeping him as the emergency quarterback since, under these new guidelines, that now apparently wouldn’t be an option.

What Happens With Jalen Mills?

Patriots defensive back Jalen Mills is a name that continues to be tossed around as people begin making roster projections.

Mills has had a good preseason, but he finds himself in a deep safeties group that includes Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips, Jabrill Peppers, Joshua Bledsoe, and even newcomer Marte Mapu, who has played a hybrid role both at linebacker and safety this preseason.

Mapu’s ascension could be closing the door on someone like Bledsoe, who has actually had some good moments this preseason, but it may just come down to numbers.

The difficult part with Mills is the fact that he seems to be the best fit at free safety, so it’s tough to imagine who would slide into that role if they did opt to part ways with him.  Especially given that he’s had such a terrific preseason.

NBC Sports Boston’s Tom Curran has heard the talk about Mills, and he also can’t see them cutting him.  But during an appearance on Gresh & Fauria on Monday, Curran made an interesting point after he noted that sometimes a young player’s long-term potential can be more valuable than a current veteran’s.

While he disagrees that Mills might be cut, he understands the thought process behind it.

“Jalen Mills, anyone who is talking about that [cutting Mills] is just not really, in my estimation, reading the tea leaves on the usage, on the communication, on the ability level that he’s exhibiting,” said Curran.  “But when you enter into the equation a Marte Mapu, who has the hybrid ability to do different things, I can see why Jalen Mills is someone who has flowed off someone’s tongue who said, ‘Look, if you press me, maybe someone like that.'”  Because it’s those competitions between moving on from guys.”

“I remember [Former Boston Globe/Boston Herald reporter] Ron Borges told me a long ago when Troy Brown had lit it up at a 2006 preseason game against Green Bay and I was like, ‘They can never release Troy Brown, can they?’ He goes, ‘At some point, even if Troy Brown is better than the guy behind him, you have to move on from the guy because Troy won’t be better than him in two years.  And if you say goodbye to the guy who might be better in two years, then you have an issue.’  IE: Braxton Berrios.  Not saying he’s the next Troy Brown, but a good example of it.”

That will likely factor into quite a few decisions in the coming days, with the Patriots finding themselves with some pretty good names who may end up playing elsewhere after next Monday.

Nixon to IR, McCall Claimed

After suffering a tough injury out in Green Bay Saturday night, it appears Tre Nixon’s 2023 season is over.

The club waived him on Tuesday, with the receiver likely headed to injured reserve after he clears waivers.

Nixon suffered a devastating shoulder injury Saturday night with just over a minute left to play in the first half.  On the play, Bailey Zappe threw into triple coverage to Nixon and as the ball arrived, the Packers’ secondary collapsed on Nixon as safety Anthony Johnson Jr. went up for the football to try and knock the pass away.

Instead, not only did he get his hand on the football, but Johnson also ended up landing on top of Nixon, with the receiver’s right shoulder getting driven into the turf as he hit the ground with Johnson’s weight bearing down on him.

Nixon stayed down after the play as trainers then rushed out and tended to him.  He ended up being down for an extended period of time, to the point where Bill Belichick even walked over to check on him as the young wideout remained on the turf.

He eventually walked off under his own power, favoring his right arm.

It’s an unfortunate end for a player who has worked so hard but just hasn’t quite been able to break through to this point.

Meanwhile, the club claimed defensive tackle Marquan McCall, who seems like he could be a player who can provide a big presence up front.

He’s a big guy, with the Patriots listing him at 6’3″, 379 pounds, which now makes him the biggest inside player for the Patriots on the roster, including compared to players like Carl Davis (335lbs) and Lawrence Guy (315lbs).  Both Guy and Davis have been names coming up as the odd men out on various roster predictions, and McCall’s addition certainly doesn’t help their cause.

McCall was waived by the Panthers earlier this week, which was surprising for a player who had appeared to have established a role for himself in Carolina.  The former undrafted free agent played in 16 games for the Panthers in 2022.

Odds and Ends

Mike Gesicki reportedly returned to practice on Tuesday, with the tight end being limited coming off a shoulder injury he suffered a couple of weeks ago. … Also limited was receiver Demario Douglas, which is an interesting development.  The rookie spent Tuesday’s session working out on the conditioning field, but didn’t participate in any team portions of the practice. … Douglas had a strong performance Saturday night and was in with the first team offense.  The rookie played just four snaps against the Packers, including 3 on offense, and just one on special teams.  However, one of those plays was a terrific catch and run for 15-yards to convert a 3rd down play for the offense Saturday night. … Things apparently didn’t go well for rookie kicker Chad Ryland Tuesday.  The fourth-round draft pick was 0-for-3 on his attempts, with all three sailing wide to the left.  He seemed to be heading in the direction of possibly unseating Nick Folk, but days like that – if they continue – may change things.  Especially for a team where points will likely be at a premium in 2023.

Posted Under: Patriots News

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