Pats Notes: Mapu, RB, Ryland, Cunningham

We’ve already written a bit about Patriots third-round pick Marte Mapu out of Sacramento State and his dual ability to play both linebacker and safety, a role he played in college. We had a feeling that the Patriots would see that ability and likely play him in the same role, and it looks like that may be exactly what they’re planning to do. They have him officially listed as a linebacker on their roster, but according to Doug Kyed of A to Z Sports, they have been utilizing him lately to fill the void left by former safety Devin McCourty, who retired back in March.

The Patriots are no strangers to experimenting with young players and moving them around the field. Mapu gives them a perfect opportunity to do just that. At only 216 pounds, Mapu is a bit too light to be a perfect fit at linebacker. In Sacramento, he played mostly an in-between role in the slot before lining up at linebacker in the Senior Bowl. At his first OTA practice in New England, he played linebacker; in the two practices after that, McCourty’s old safety role.

Not only does he feel comfortable playing both roles, but his teammates are also under the impression that the adjustment from FCS to NFL is coming easy to Mapu, according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss. His flexibility and progression have combined to earn him first-team snaps extremely early in his career, as reported by Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated.

Here are a few more rumors coming out of Foxborough:

  • After releasing James Robinson earlier this week, the Patriots may be looking to add another body to the position room, according to Karen Guregian of MassLive. The team will run with Rhamondre Stevenson as their No. 1 next year, no question, but the names behind him don’t inspire much confidence. Pierre Strong, Kevin Harris, and Ty Montgomery combined for 150 rushing yards last year. Strong and Montgomery are reportedly in the running to compete for a third down back role with Harris potentially slotting in as RB2, but one has to imagine the Patriots are considering their options. Obviously, Dalvin Cook is available, but if they’d like to pursue someone more used to working with another rusher, Kareem Hunt, Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette, and Kenyan Drake are interesting names to look out for.
  • New England spent two draft picks on specialists this year, drafting Maryland kicker Chad Ryland in the fourth round and Michigan State punter Bryce Baringer in the sixth. Despite demonstrating the commitment to spend draft capital on the two, Guregian asserts that neither is a lock to replace the incumbent specialists, Nick Folk and Corliss Waitman. Guregian expects a heavy competition for both kicking jobs but doesn’t rule out the possibility of the losers of those battles landing on the team’s practice squad.
  • Former Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham was highly sought after when he went undrafted this year. The Patriots landed his talents thanks to a deal that included $200K in guaranteed money. The money might not have been the only factor in Cunningham choosing New England as his professional destination, though. According to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe, Cunningham told the media that “the Patriots were the only team before the draft to work him out at (wide receiver).” He’s listed as a quarterback on the team’s roster, but perhaps working him out at receiver gave Cunningham the impression that he would have more playing opportunities or a higher chance to make the 53-man roster.
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