Long shots: Is there a spot for Keionta Davis on Patriots D-line?


Each day, following Patriots training camp practice, we'll highlight one intriguing "long shot" to make the roster. What might that player bring to the table for Bill Belichick's team? Who's he competing with for a spot? And what does he have to do to make the team? 

FOXBORO - Julian Edelman spoke Friday about how he was working to get his "football legs" back after a year off. For the first few days of camp, it looked as though Keionta Davis was trying to do the same. 

The second-year defensive lineman had a couple of rough matchups in one-on-one work on Thursday, falling in one rep against Brian Schwenke and getting walled off by David Andrews on another. But on Friday, Davis exhibited a burst of speed and power that spun veteran offensive lineman Ulrick John out of position for a decisive victory. 

A moment like that gave a brief window into the kind of promise Davis had last season when he was signed as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga last summer. The talent that made Davis a two-time All-American, the talent that reportedly coaxed Bill Belichick to Chattanooga to put Davis through a private workout, is still there. The question is, will it be enough to earn Davis a roster spot? 

Davis had 31 sacks in college and was projected to be a mid-to-late round pick last spring, but he went unclaimed due to a bulging disc in his neck that was found in a physical at the NFL Scouting Combine. According to a Times Free Press story last May, Davis had no idea anything was wrong. He finished the 2016 season as the Southern Conference defensive player of the year, he participated in the Senior Bowl, and he told doctors that he hadn't felt any pain. 

Apparently healthy after nearly a full year in the Patriots system on the non-football injury/reserve list, the team could be toying with the idea of bumping Davis inside. He was listed at 260 pounds upon signing last August. He's now listed at 6-foot-3, 280 pounds.

At that size - he happens to be listed at the same height and weight of teammate Adrian Clayborn - Davis could conceivably take on edge responsibilities, play as a 3-4 end, or kick inside for obvious pass-rushing situations. The Patriots have shown some 3-4 looks thus far in camp under the guidance of Belichick and linebackers coach Brian Flores. 

In order to have a crack at the roster, Davis will have to build on his positive one-on-one performance from Friday, but he'll also have to show that he's worthy of a spot over some other under-the-radar defensive linemen - rookies Frank Herron, Trent Harris and John Atkins. Should Davis begin to flash more consistently in practices and preseason games - the way 275-pounder Anthony Johnson did in 2016 - he could potentially end up with a spot as an interior pass-rushing specialist of sorts.


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