Right around the start of camp, we introduced a little exercise meant to determine some of the most sneaky important members of the Pats summer roster. Now that the Pats are halfway through their preseason slate, we can shift gears a little bit and examine what players have sneaked up on us and made themselves legit candidates to start the season against the Dolphins on the 53-man roster. There's still plenty of time for moves to be made and the first round of cuts have yet to take place. But should any of the following names wind up making the trip to Miami, don't be surprised.
Brian Tyms, WR: Quick, if you had the choice of Tyms or second-year man Josh Boyce to fill out the Pats receiving corps, who would it be? You're entitled to your opinion but the correct answer is Tyms, who has accomplished more in three weeks of training camp than Boyce has in over a year. Tyms added another TD reception to his list of summer accomplishments on Friday night, this one a leaping grab of a high toss from Ryan Mallett which required the 6-3 receiver to go well up and over Eagles corner Curtis Marsh and snare the ball at its highest point. Tyms, who brought to mind another tall, rangy receiver from the Pats not too distant past on that play, has eight catches for 146 yards and two scores in two preseason games and has even seen some run with Tom Brady and the first-teamers during practice, a stunner given the former undrafted free agent's road to Foxborough. Tyms' size makes him an intriguing red zone option as well as a enticing potential target for Brady outside the numbers, two areas which, along with free agent import Brandon LaFell, make him an ideal complement to the Pats multitude of receiving threats in the middle of the field. The fact that Tyms must serve a four-game suspension to start the season will ultimately help him as the Pats won't have to make a decision on his roster status until after the Week 4 Monday nighter in Kansas City. Plenty of time for Boyce to continue proving that Tyms should take his place among the Pats pass catchers.
Jordan Devey, OL: Devey, a former undrafted free agent who cut his teeth on the Pats practice squad last season, played every last one of the team's 91 offensive snaps in Friday night's win over the Eagles, inserting himself seriously into the discussion regarding one of the most competitive, intriguing position battles of training camp. He's can play both guard and tackle which instantly makes him an appealing option for a roster spot given the Pats love of versatility in their offensive linemen. There's still a long way to go for Devey given the presence of veterans Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly, Josh Kline and Marcus Cannon and draft picks Jon Halapio, Cameron Fleming and Bryan Stork. But now that Stork's absence has passed the the two-week mark thanks to an injury, the relative inexperience of Halapio and Fleming, and Devey's multi-faceted skill set, his chances of beating the odds and making the team feel pretty good.
Roy Finch, RB/KR: Probably the longest shot of this group to make the team, Finch has still turned enough heads thus far to give some real weight to his candidacy. He's a dynamic threat out of the backfield whose running style is fast, tough and elusive all at once. He practically jumped through the TV screen during the win over the Eagles, combining for 71 yards rushing and receiving on just nine touches and scoring a 10-yard TD on the ground. He also posted a couple of impressive kick returns and while he did seem a bit lost in pass protection at times, that's a skill most rookies struggle with and can be worked out. Finch could be in danger of getting caught in a numbers game; he's not going to beat out Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen or even fellow rookie James White for a job. If there's a place for a fourth running back, it''s going to come down to Finch vs. third-year man Brandon Bolden, who had been invisible all summer until ripping off a handful of rushing attempts at seven yards a pop on Friday. The safest bet for Finch at the moment would be the practice squad. But keep an eye on him. He's a potentially a dangerous, versatile weapon.
Malcolm Butler, CB: The non-sneakiest of the group, Butler has been the darling of training camp and is well established on the radar screen. He continued his impressive, playmaking work against the Eagles, forcing a fumble then recovering it seconds later and adding in an end zone pass breakup as well. Butler has played more snaps than any other member of the defense in the Pats two preseason games thus far and considering both Brandon Browner's impending suspension as well as the team's use of traditional corners Kyle Arrington and Logan Ryan at safety at times, the undrafted rookie out of West Alabama feels like not only a lock to make the team but to see some significant regular season game action as well.
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