By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
There’s a certain kind of player that the Patriots seem to attract, and that they always get the most out of. Guys who may not have the highest level skill set, but will themselves into becoming impact players. Individuals who buy into the program and the mentality in such a way that allows the Patriots to drag the absolute best out of them.
Just a few days into training camp, it appears the 2020 version of that player could be wide receiver Devin Ross.
A third-year receiver out of Colorado, Ross spent his rookie year on the Titans practice squad. After being released last summer, he had a brief pre-training camp stint with the Eagles before spending the 2019 preseason unemployed. He was signed to the Patriots practice squad in October.
Now in a training camp with prior knowledge of the system for the first time, Ross is making the most of his opportunities. The former UDFA has made a number of standout plays over the first few days of camp, which has seemingly shaken up the competition at the back end of the Patriots’ wide receiver depth chart.
Even with the all-virtual impact of COVID-19, the pre-training camp offseason period has proven to be valuable for Ross. The 25-year-old, who hadn’t yet spent a full offseason with a single team, told reporters on Wednesday the mental reps he got in April and May are turning into results on the field.
“That helped me a lot being able to learn everything, learn the whole scheme and be able to go out there and play fast and just know everything and how to read coverages,” Ross said. It’s all just coming together and being able to get repetitions at it is definitely helping a lot.”
Although Ross faces competition from a handful of other players, most with more NFL experience, he keeps an individual mindset when he’s on the field.
“[It’s] Preparation meets opportunity at this point,” Ross told reporters. “I’ve been preparing since last season for opportunities like this and camp in general. So when the ball’s in the air it’s like I’m training with my quarterbacks back home in LA. It’s me and the ball and the ball has to be mine no matter what… you have to do everything you can in that moment.”
“I come to the line every time out of the huddle with the mindset that no one can match me or cover me,” Ross continued. “That’s the mindset I always come to the game with. I just feel like I want to be the best player I can so I come to the line with complete confidence, 110 percent…I’ve just got that chip on my shoulder. I feel like it’s me vs. me.”
To keep that mindset while going up against one of the best defensive back units in the league can’t be easy, Ross’ motivation tool is intrinsic, powerful, and deeply personal.
“My family growing up in the Los Angeles area, not always in good terms and everything, just wanting to be able to [do] what my mom and dad inspired me every day to do,” Ross said. “It’s bigger than myself so I want to be able to help them and do everything I can to be able to represent my family well and make the Ross last name mean something more than it already does. That’s my chip. I come every day ready to work. I’m working for my family not just myself.”
Ross even has an old-school mindset when it comes to players running laps, a controversy that started Tuesday night after Joe Judge, former Patriots special teams coordinator and now Giants head coach, sent players and coaches around the field at his team’s practice.
“It’s all about discipline. I feel like it’s necessary. We need to be disciplined as players and as coaches. We gotta be doing everything right. You’re never too old to get disciplined. Definitely not in my household I was never too old to get disciplined.”
Looking at the Patriots depth chart, it feels pretty safe to say Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, and Mohamed Sanu have their spots locked up. Behind that trio, it feels like Gunner Olszewski, Jakobi Meyers, Damiere Byrd, Jeff Thomas, and Ross fighting for the final two or three spots.
While it is definitely still early, Ross has laid down a solid foundation for a roster push, and there’s no doubt his approach has been key to his hot start.
For more on the Patriots wide receiver situation and training camp updates, make sure to check back in with 985TheSportsHub.com.