Patriots 2 Promising Rookies Make Practice Debut


Cameron McGrone

If there is an element the New England Patriots‘ linebacker group is missing its speed. If things work out well for rookie Cameron McGrone, the Patriots could have an explosive force to their roster late in the season. The secondary has been seen a area in need of improvement. Perhaps Joshuah Bledsoe can help provide some depth at safety. McGrone both made their practice debut on Tuesday, November 24 ahead of the Week 12 matchup with the Tennessee Titans. 

Both players have a 21-day clock started with their return to practice. The jury is still out on their chances of being activated for a game this season, but their appearances at practice are still promising signs for the future.

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There is no pressure on McGrone nor Bledsoe to make a huge impact on to even progress to the point where they are activated this season. It seems certain there is a bit of a long-term plan for both players.

Perhaps it is even more clear for McGrone. The Patriots seemingly project as a team that will need an injection of athleticism at linebacker, and McGrone appears to have the goods.

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Who is Cameron McGrone?

McGrone likely slipped in the 2021 NFL Draft because teams were aware of his injury. The timing was less than ideal considering it happened toward the end of the season.

While not healthy, McGrone still received a positive scouting report from Crabbs of The Draft Network. Crabbs wrote:

Cameron McGrone projects as a starting MIKE linebacker at the professional level. McGrone is just a redshirt sophomore who enters the NFL draft process with just 19 games and 15 starts at Michigan under his belt—a significantly small sample size that will leave teams needing a little extra clarity in order to decipher his ceiling within their respective defensive systems. McGrone claimed the Wolverines’ starting MIKE LB position in 2019 after injuries forced the team to shuffle around their defensive depth chart and McGrone never looked back as a redshirt freshman. He was tremendous throughout the course of the 2019 season and while he did not quite play to that same caliber or level in 2020, he clearly has all of the physical tools needed to become a dynamic defensive playmaker for an NFL franchise as the heartbeat in the middle. McGrone operated as the MIKE in Dom Brown’s blitz-heavy defensive scheme, which has groomed McGrone to offer an NFL defense ample value on third downs and obvious passing situations. There’s not a great deal of exposure to more pure coverage reps, although he was afforded a handful of opportunities to pick-up back releases in man coverage or go flexed out wide against tight ends (Indiana 2020). McGrone also showed admirable toughness this past season, playing with a cast on his hand and continuing to play with a twitched presence who wasn’t afraid to lock horns with offensive linemen at the line of scrimmage. McGrone’s value stems from an explosive athletic profile and three-down value for the NFL game—meaning he should get a chance to crack a starting lineup fairly early on despite his lack of experience at the college level.

Straight line speed and the ability to avoid blockers appears to be McGrone’s best attributes. Take a look at the highlight reel he had that showed McGrone at his best in his final year at Michigan.

Cameron McGrone College Highlights | New England Patriots | #2021NFLDraftThe New England Patriots just drafted LB Cameron McGrone out of Michigan in the Fifth Round with overall pick #177. Here are some of his college highlights. #2021NFLDraft​ #NewEnglandPatriots​ #GoPats2021-05-05T17:47:42Z

Who is Joshuah Bledsoe?

While he doesn’t project as the same kind of playmaker McGrone could be this year or the next, Bledsoe does have some intriguing upside.

Bledsoe seems like a player in the mold of Adrian Phillips and former Patriot Patrick Chung. New England loves these guys who can provide solid coverage against the runs while also checking some tight ends and running backs out of the backfield. With injuries and the way teams pass the ball in today’s NFL, a team can’t have enough able-bodied safeties and corners.

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