PHOTO: Marshall running back Earl Charles, left, stiff-arms Central Florida free safety Brandon Marshall as he carries the ball upfield during the first half on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2004, at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington, W.Va. (AP Photo/Randy Snyder)
And You Guys Are...?
Pats Sign In New Campers
By Chris Timoney, Patriots Insider
The New England Patriots held their first rookie mini-camp this past weekend in Foxboro. Along with first round pick Logan Mankins and USC back-up Matt Cassel and the rest of all of this years draft class there were six other players invited to camp and signed to the roster on a tryout basis. Odds are none of these guys will make the active roster, but some could be around through August. Odds are none of these names are on experts radar lists and are most likely only known by their families, teammates and landlords. When they walked on to the grounds at Gillette the security guard probably said "And you guys are...?"
Here are the six players at camp this past weekend that you most likely have never heard of.
Earl Charles - If he somehow makes the team and even more miraculously gets productive playing time they should nickname him the Duke of Earl, but those possibilities are still along way away for the Marshall running back. Earl Charles is a decent size back at 6'1", 210 pounds and has solid plowing ability. In two seasons at Marshall Charles racked up 1,844 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns and was an immediate impact upon transferring from junior college. The potential Duke of Earl is a patient runner who allows blocks to develop before he uses his size to plow forward. His girth allows him to move off of contact and fall forward on tackles, picking up the extra yard or two. He's much more of an up-and-down runner and lacks explosive speed which makes him more a situational back. His lack of quickness may not have him turning many corners, but as insurance at running back he may turn some important heads within the Patriots organization.
Rhett Kopp - Aside the fact that he was a punter at Carson-Newman in college and was signed as a free agent by the Rams in 2003, then sent to NFL Europe, not much is known about Rhett. In March of 2003 he was assigned by St. Louis to the Amsterdam Admirals as a punter. There are worse things that can happen to you other than punting in the Red Light district and getting paid for it. Size may be an issue here...Kopp is 5'9", 160 pounds.
Michael McGrew - The Virginia wide receiver made a complete recovery in 2004 from a broken leg suffered in training camp in 2003. McGrew was a team leader and a standout wide receiver on a Virginia team that loved to run the ball. The 6'2" 200 pound wide-out was a three year starter at Virginia and led all wide receivers this past season with 30 catches for 355 yards and two touchdowns. Though his stats are nothing spectacular, Virginia averaged over 240 yards per game rushing and the Cavaliers ran the ball at nearly a 3-1 ratio. Considering the fact that McGrew also had to compete with first round pick tight end Heath Miller for balls and his senior year doesn't look so unproductive. McGrew is a good possession receiver who is willing to go over the middle for catches in coverage. If anything he can contribute to the "competition breeds excellence" theory throughout camp and push current Patriots receivers to take their game to the next level.
Demarco McNeil - McNeil was a freshman standout at defensive tackle for Auburn, yet many say his play leveled off after his first year in the SEC. The 300 pounder signed with the Philadelphia Eagles during training camp last summer and was released weeks later before the start of the season. Demarco is a solid run stuffer in the middle and has good moves on the line, but his mental intensity and dedication have been called into question. After going undrafted in 2004 McNeil spent time with the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena League as a member of their injured reserve list and practice squad until his release in March. Chalk McNeil up as a guy trying to show somebody that he can play at the NFL level. The Patriots most definitely qualify as a "somebody" in the NFL.
Michael Rogers - This Mr. Rogers is a 6'3" 300 pound guard that may stir things up in the neighborhood. A converted defensive tackle, Rogers was a three year starter at Richmond who displays athleticism at the position and explosiveness in his blocks. He's still a bit green at the guard position but has what it takes to possibly make the practice squad for a year before being considered for the active roster. Looking at how New England has patched together offensive lines over the past few years, Rogers could end up suiting up in November.
Santonio Thomas - Thomas is a defensive lineman who actually played as a freshman at Miami, so he's got some skills. In 2003 he served as Vince Wilfork's backup before moving to the starting lineup as a senior. He's had injury problems in the past including a shoulder injury that red-shirted him for the 2002 season. As an understudy to Wilfork in '03 Santonio (6'2", 300lbs) battled ankle injuries through the ten games he played. His senior campaign started out great in 2004 until a knee injury and surgery cost him a chunk of the season. Thomas battled back and was able to return at the end of the season. He's got the size and if he can improve his durability Santonio can prove to be serviceable in the NFL.
And that's who those guys were. You might want to get to know them now, because they may not be around that long.
Chris Timoney covers the Boston Celtics for Sporting News Radio's 1510 "The Zone" Celtic Pride postgame show. You also can hear Chris Wednesday mornings talking Patriots football on Sporting News Radio 1320 "The Drive". You can reach Chris in the forums, or contact him here: JakBrown
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