Phil Perry

Patriots stock watch: Boutte making a late-summer push for Belichick's roster

Sixth-round wideout Kayshon Boutte has stepped up with Demario Douglas and Tyquan Thornton sidelined.

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FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick is fond of saying that it's not what a player does before they get to Foxboro that earns them their role. It's what they do once they show up. 

Kayshon Boutte may be the next best example of Belichick staying true to those words. A sixth-round pick out of LSU, Boutte arrived to the NFL with all kinds of question marks. There were off-the-field concerns. There were injury concerns. His combine performance was a dud. 

But after an inauspicious start to OTAs and then training camp, Boutte has surged. He made impressive catches on the fields behind Gillette Stadium while working with reserves. There was a one-handed, toe-tapping touchdown. There was a diving grab along the sideline and a touchdown in the front corner of the end zone. His hands and body control impressed.

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After snaring a slant from Bailey Zappe and taking it for a touchdown in Green Bay, Boutte has continued to produce. He caught all six of his targets in competitive periods on Tuesday and Wednesday, including a touchdown from Mac Jones at the tail end of practice to finish off a two-minute drill. Veteran offensive lineman Riley Reiff was excited enough that he almost knocked over Boutte during the subsequent celebration.

Boutte was at one point a big-time NFL prospect after a torrid start to his college. There remains perhaps a degree of upside that would entice a club to take a chance on him via waivers if the Patriots opted not to keep him on their initial 53-man roster. Particularly now since it's apparent he's healthy. But what he's done over the last few weeks -- especially with fellow sixth-round rookie Demario "Pop" Douglas missing practice injured -- may encourage the Patriots to hold onto him. 

He made our list of 53, which you can read here, and he leads our latest edition of Stock Watch ahead of the preseason finale in Tennessee...

Stock up

Kayshon Boutte

The Patriots have a clear top three at the receiver position in DeVante Parker, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Kendrick Bourne. But Boutte has been No. 4 of late with both Douglas and Tyquan Thornton missing time.

Boutte and Thornton are very different players -- Thornton has rare straight-line speed -- but both can play on the outside. (Douglas looks more like a slot option.) And Thornton has been out long enough this summer that wouldn't you want to keep around Boutte for a little boundary depth?

Ezekiel Elliott

The veteran back opened my eyes this week. I thought he showed some juice in tight quarters. He's not going to be the explosive-play threat he was early in his career, but he moved well laterally near the line of scrimmage. He also seems to have good vision to find holes quickly.

He was used extensively in the team's last practice of the week, and it'd be interesting to see if they deemed him ready to play in the preseason finale in Nashville. He told reporters he was ready to go on Wednesday.

Myles Bryant

After Christian Gonzalez suffered an injury late in Wednesday's practice, it became clear just how fragile things are at the corner position in New England. Jonathan Jones hasn't practiced in weeks. Jack Jones has a court date scheduled in East Boston on Sept. 15 and could face league discipline, though he said Wednesday the NFL hasn't been in touch with him yet.

Bryant, who has played all over the secondary this summer, would be one of the next up, and he's played well of late. He had a nice pass breakup in the preseason matchup with Green Bay, and he had what would have been a pick-six of Mac Jones on Tuesday. He's not one of the biggest names in the defensive backfield in Foxboro, but it seems as though he has a role. He's versatile. He's been healthy. And he understands what he's seeing, which has translated to a few plays on the football in the last few days. 

Stock down

Trent Brown

When at his best, Brown is a good left tackle and one of the best linemen the Patriots have. Will be interesting to see, come Week 1, how close to his best Brown will be. He played just 11 snaps in preseason game No. 2. Then in a fully-padded practice on Wednesday, he took a loud loss in pass protection when matched up one-on-one with Deatrich Wise. Getting his punch pushed aside by Wise's long arms, Brown ended up on his back quickly as Wise bowled over him. At a different point in practice, Matthew Judon was completely unblocked off the left side -- hard to say if that was Brown's responsibility or someone else's -- for a "sack."

Malik Cunningham

It's worth wondering if Cunningham has hit a bit of a rookie wall toward the end of training camp. He's been asked to prep at quarterback, receiver and in multiple roles on special teams. If he was gassed, it would be understandable. He dropped a pass on Wednesday and out in Green Bay he wasn't able to make a catch on five targets (though he did draw a pass-interference penalty). 

Atonio Mafi

The rookie fifth-rounder has been at left guard for the vast majority of Patriots practices since Cole Strange's leg injury. But he gave up some reps to Chasen Hines on Wednesday after appearing to give up some ground on the interior. He had some issues in pass protection in Green Bay -- he was on the scene for one Mac Jones hit -- and asking him to go wire-to-wire against a vaunted Eagles pass-rush unit Week 1 feels like a big ask given his experience level.

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