As we head into the week after Labor Day and hunker down for fall and football, why not pick up some chat fodder to avoid awkward water-cooler moments by learning about some of the newest Patriots?
Also on tap – after dozens and dozens of requests (read: none whatsoever), the return of high school fun facts!
NEW TO THE ROSTER
Getting It Wright: New Patriots pass-catcher Tim Wright came from Tampa Bay along with a fourth-round pick for guard Logan Mankins. (We’re okay about that now, right? Now that the initial shock has passed, I mean?) Wright’s four catches for 43 yards made for a snappy debut down in New Jersey, but it didn’t come as a surprise for those who have watched him. The 6-4, 230-pound Rutgers product had 54 receptions for the Buccaneers last season. In 2012, Wright caught 39 passes for 449 yards (11.5 avg) and two touchdowns, behind Brandon Coleman (43 for 718, 10 TDs) and Mark Harrison (44 for 583, six TDs), but ahead of Quron Pratt (22 for 230, zero TDs). Quite a little receiving corps they had down there on the banks of the Raritan.
High School Fun Fact: Wright played running back, wide receiver, cornerback and safety at Wall High in New Jersey, where he was a consensus top 15 recruit.
Give It Some Gaston: Loyal BSMW readers may remember Bruce Gaston as the very first mention in this year’s Combine Snubs series after the Purdue product put up 34 reps in the 225-pound bench press. The 6-2, 308-pounder also showed some speed with a 4.95-second 40-yard dash. Last year, Gaston had 48 tackles for the Boilermakers, including three sacks. This preseason he tallied six tackles for Arizona. New England placed Gaston on their roster after the Cardinals waived him over the weekend.
High School Fun Fact: Gaston was named the Illinois Defensive Player of the Year by maxpreps.com after making 99 tackles (16 sacks) his senior year at St. Rita of Cascia High in Chicago.
No Argument Over Quarles: It certainly looks like defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles can play. Though he notched only five tackles and one sack in the preseason for the Giants, he demonstrated enough in the final tilt for the DL-needy Patriots to pick him up. Quarles went undrafted out of South Carolina despite his first-team All-American status. He had 39 tackles and 9.5 sacks in 2013, his true junior season.
High School Fun Fact: Quarles earned All-State honors down in Greenwood High in South Carolina, making 77 tackles (nine sacks, four forced fumbles) his senior year.
Mr. Jones Is Beautiful, Your Eyes Are Made Of Glass: What, no Psychedelic Furs fans in the crowd? Anyway, the Patriots added Don Jones, waived by Miami, to bolster special teams and the defensive backfield. Jones had three total tackles this preseason after totaling 10 tackles and a forced fumble for the Dolphins in 2013. BSMW mentioned Jones in Part II of our Combine Snubs series last year, after the 5-11, 191-pound Arkansas State alum ran a 4.40 40-yard dash and leaped 42 inches at the Red Wolves’ pro day. Played running back at Arkansas State in 2009, transferred to Mississippi Gulf Coast CC in 2010 where he switched to safety, then went back to Arkansas State, where he excelled at special teams (blocked a kick and a punt his junior year).
High School Fun Fact: Jones played at Hazelwood High in Alabama, rushing for 1,853 yards and 22 TDs as a senior. He also won state championships in the 100-, 200-, and 400-meter dashes.
PRACTICE SQUAD NEWBIES
So, What’s Your First Name? The Pats added journeyman QB McLeod Bethel-Thompson to their practice squad. The 6-3, 230-pounder went undrafted out of Sacramento State in 2010 and has spent time with the 49ers, the Dolphins, the Vikings, and the San Jose SaberCats of the Arena Football League. (You can find his SaberCat highlight reel here, which looks especially impressive considering he completed 46.5 percent of his passes for the team). He transferred to Sacramento State after spending his 2006 redshirt freshman year at UCLA. In his most prolific season at Sacramento State, Bethel-Thompson passed for 746 yards and four TDs, completing 58 percent of his passes. (He spent his last two years as the second-most productive QB on the Hornets’ roster.)
High School Fun Fact: McLeod earned All-Metro honors at Balboa High in San Francisco after throwing for 2,100 yards and 22 TDs as a senior. That same year he hit .610 for the baseball squad.
Patriots Fan Fun Fact: As discovered yesterday and vouched for by Matt Chatham in his Twitter account, because of a former New England receiver, every fan will mistakenly call the QB McLeod Bethel-Johnson at some point.
Sorry, Charley: New England added longsnapper Charley Hughlett to their practice squad, a fact I hesitate to write because he’ll get replaced by the time this gets posted (not for the first time, as the Pats released him from their expanded roster this spring). Hughlett got time off and on the Cowboys’ roster from 2012 to 2013 and spent the summer with Jacksonville. At Central Florida, Hughlett appeared in all 51 games over his four years, earning a spot on the Conference USA All-Freshman team as a true freshman in 2008 and All-Conference-USA Second Team honors as a junior and senior.
High School Fun Fact: At Hillsborough High in Tampa, Hughlett played center and tight end, making the All-Conference First Team as a senior. He also lettered in track & field and wrestling.
PRACTICE SQUAD NOTES
Some Gray Area: After leading all Patriots rushers this preseason with 142 yards on 37 carries (3.8 avg), Jonas Gray provides solid insurance at the big-back position (5-10, 230 pounds). The highest average this preseason for any New England back with over 10 carries? Roy Finch (13 for 60, 4.6 avg), a smaller, quicker option whom the Pats waived.
Dynamic, is all I’m saying. Dynamic.
Boyce Will Be Boyce: As pointed out by several media members, including Mike Reiss, both receiver Josh Boyce and defensive end Jake Bequette have practice squad eligibility due to new, expanded requirements this year. We will always believe Boyce jinxed himself with his “I’m really smart” comments on his first post-draft conference call. Maybe he is a smart guy, but that has yet to translate to the field. He and Bequette both qualify as workout wonders who haven’t seemed to be able to optimize their physical abilities.
Not Swanson’s Swan Song: Take a gander at defensive back Daxton Swanson’s player page on nfl.com and you won’t see any stats, but you will see a link to a video of his textbook strip-and-recovery of tight end Adrien Robinson during the final preseason match-up with the Giants. Swanson, a Sam Houston State grad, has spent the past few months learning New England’s system and could step onto the final 53 if necessary.
Principle Skinner: As the head of Springfield Elementary might say, “Attention, please. I need a volunteer for a thankless chore.” Deontae Skinner returns to New England after getting waived, helping the club with grunt work on special teams and depth at linebacker (a position so fragile in Foxboro it makes a Faberge egg wince with empathy). Skinner had four tackles this preseason. He has battled injuries (getting put on the non-football injury list in July) but in 2013 he managed 64 tackles and one interception at MSU.
You can email Chris Warner at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet him at @cwarn89