New England Patriots

Oct 31, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Josh Palmer (5) catches a 24-yard touchdown pass as New England Patriots cornerback Jalen Mills (2) and safety Adrian Phillips (21) in the second half at SoFi Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Chargers 27-24. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots emerged from the 2021 trade deadline without making a move. And ultimately, not many teams around the National Football League were willing or able to swing deals to add players, if only for financial reasons.

Instead of furthering the money crunch to deepen the depth charts, the Patriots chose to move forward with who they have on the 53-man roster, while also making good use of the practice squad. Again, just like most of the league. The Chiefs, Broncos, Eagles, Jets, Steelers, Texans, and 49ers were the only teams to make trades on Tuesday.

We at 985TheSportsHub.com looked at certain positional groups to mine for possible names that could be added via trade for a minimal financial commitment. There are obvious questions for the secondary, as well as positions where the Patriots have dealt with injuries to key players.

Since the trade deadline has come and gone without the Patriots adding from outside, it’s time to take stock of the depth charts at a handful of relatively tenuous areas on the roster.

  • Cornerback

    Sep 19, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New England Patriots defensive back J.C. Jackson (27) celebrates his interception with cornerback Jalen Mills (2) during the first half against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 19, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New England Patriots defensive back J.C. Jackson (27) celebrates his interception with cornerback Jalen Mills (2) during the first half against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

    Trading Stephon Gilmore to the Panthers did not lead to a corresponding move. The Patriots will rely on their current group for the remainder of the season, barring a street free-agent addition.

    J.C. Jackson remains the team’s clear No. 1 cornerback on the outside. He’s having another productive year with three interceptions, seven more pass breakups, and 36 total tackles through eight games. Low points have been few and far between for Jackson, who hasn’t been the issue at this position. In a short-term concern, Jackson has been absent from practice two days in a row due to an illness.

    The problem at cornerback has mostly related to free-agent signing Jalen Mills, who has often looked out of place as an outside corner. Mills has long been better suited to play on the inside, and that may have been the team’s plan for him initially, but the loss of Gilmore has necessitated using him more on the boundary.

    Another reason Mills has played mostly on the outside: third-year pro Joejuan Williams hasn’t quite panned out. He had perhaps his best game as a Patriot in Week 7 against the Jets, who do have a talented receiver group. But Williams also got burned badly for multiple big plays in Week 5 against the Texans. He hasn’t shown enough consistency to inspire confidence in him as a regular at outside corner.

    Oct 10, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans wide receiver Chris Conley (18) runs with the ball after a reception as New England Patriots cornerback Joejuan Williams (33) defends during the second quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 10, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans wide receiver Chris Conley (18) runs with the ball after a reception as New England Patriots cornerback Joejuan Williams (33) defends during the second quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    The Patriots also have rookie Shaun Wade, whose ultimate ceiling in the NFL is unclear after the Ravens drafted him in the fifth round before trading him to New England in August. Wade has been on the 53-man roster all season, but has yet to be active in a game. He most recently dealt with a concussion, but was a full participant at practice on Wednesday.

    In the slot, Jonathan Jones’ season-ending injury was a tough blow. But the Patriots look OK at that spot depth-wise, as Myles Bryant has stepped up in a major way in recent weeks. They also recently signed former Jets slot corner Brian Poole to the practice squad.

    Elsewhere on the practice squad, the Patriots also have D’Angelo Ross and the recently signed De’Vante Bausby.

  • Running Back

    Oct 24, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA;  New England Patriots running back Brandon Bolden (25) scores a touchdown against the New York Jets during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 24, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots running back Brandon Bolden (25) scores a touchdown against the New York Jets during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    The Patriots’ ground game has taken off in recent weeks, propelled by a solidifying offensive line and some good, hard running by Damien Harris. They’ve averaged 4.2 yards per carry as a team over the last four games and have gone 3-1 in that span.

    But in light of a season-ending injury for James White, the Patriots could have possibly looked outside New England for pass-catching help at running back. They’ve depended mostly on Brandon Bolden in White’s role as the go-to back on third down and in obvious passing situations. Bolden played 13 of 18 plays on third down against the Chargers.

    Harris has seen more time in the passing game since the Patriots lost White, but it appears that they’ll mainly stick with Bolden as their pass-catcher out of the backfield. Bolden has been inconsistent in the role. He caught six passes for 79 yards and a touchdown against the Jets, but was not targeted in last week’s win over the Chargers.

    Behind Harris and Bolden, the Patriots have taken a week-to-week approach with second-year back J.J. Taylor and rookie Rhamondre Stevenson, typically making only one of them active on Sundays. It’s been unclear who’s going to get the nod on a weekly basis.

    If something happens to Bolden, it would be fair to expect a committee type of approach as far as the pass-catching back. Both Stevenson and Taylor have potential in the passing game, but the Patriots clearly aren’t comfortable deploying either of them regularly just yet.

  • Wide Receiver

    INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 31: Jakobi Meyers #16 of the New England Patriots makes a catch for a two point conversion in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on October 31, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

    INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 31: Jakobi Meyers #16 of the New England Patriots makes a catch for a two point conversion in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on October 31, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

    A clear four-man group has emerged on the Patriots’ receiver depth chart, and it’s not terribly surprising. Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor, and Kendrick Bourne have been the primary three-receiver set.

    Meanwhile, N’Keal Harry has gradually seen his role increased since returning from injured reserve. He’s often been used as a blocker in the running game with his 6-foot-4 frame, and he caught two passes for 30 yards against the Chargers.

    One area where it seemed like the Patriots could use another body was in the slot. Jakobi Meyers has been the primary inside receiver, but Bourne has also seen time in the slot. Bill Belichick has described Meyers as more of a “hybrid” inside-outside receiver than a typical slot guy, and Bourne wouldn’t be described as a “traditional” slot receiver, either.

    Gunner Olszewski, meanwhile, continues to excel as a punt returner, but hasn’t developed enough as a pass-catcher to see regular time on offense. In light of that, it could’ve behooved the Patriots to target a traditional slot receiver to get open early in routes in the short, middle areas of the field. It wouldn’t hurt for Mac Jones to have that kind of security blanket, and perhaps open things up more for Meyers and Bourne down the field.

    INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 31: Gunner Olszewski #80 of the New England Patriots runs with the ball while being tackled by Nick Niemann #31 of the Los Angeles Chargers in the second quarter at SoFi Stadium on October 31, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

    INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 31: Gunner Olszewski #80 of the New England Patriots runs with the ball while being tackled by Nick Niemann #31 of the Los Angeles Chargers in the second quarter at SoFi Stadium on October 31, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

    They chose to stick with the group they have, and it’s not an unfair assessment.

    The receivers haven’t really been much of an issue, overall. Plus, even if they did bring in a receiver, it would be unlikely that, outside of an All-Pro-caliber talent, he would make an impact immediately. Any kind of receiver move likely would’ve been for depth.

    On the practice squad, the Patriots still have Kristian Wilkerson and rookie Tre Nixon developing.

  • Offensive Line

    Oct 31, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) prepares to take the snap against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 31, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) prepares to take the snap against the Los Angeles Chargers in the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    The tackle spots were a concern for much of the first half of the 2021 season, until … they weren’t?

    It may still be too early to come to a big-picture conclusion, but the Patriots’ offensive line seems to be solidifying in recent weeks. One of the big changes that appears to have made a substantial impact is Mike Onwenu’s move back to right tackle. Onwenu had played most of the season at left guard, considering he played guard at Michigan. Now, especially based on the results, Onwenu may be at right tackle for good.

    On the left end, Isaiah Wynn seems to be cleaning things up a bit. The impact of losing Joe Thuney to Wynn’s right, at the left guard spot, may have been underplayed heading into the season. But Wynn is now working next to Ted Karras at Thuney’s old spot, and it may represent an upgrade over Onwenu, who wasn’t playing poorly at guard but seems better suited as a tackle at the NFL level.

    James Ferentz filled in while the Patriots tried to find an O-line combo that works, and his performance was up-and-down, but he is a fine backup for all three interior spots. Tackles Yodny Cajuste and Justin Herron don’t seem ready for regular roles, but shouldn’t be written off just yet.

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 19: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots drops back against the Philadelphia Eagles in the preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on August 19, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Patriots defeated the Eagles 35-0. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

    PHILADELPHIA, PA – AUGUST 19: Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots drops back against the Philadelphia Eagles in the preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on August 19, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Patriots defeated the Eagles 35-0. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

    For now, the offensive line configuration of Wynn, Karras, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, and Onwenu seems to be the best group going forward. Tackle Trent Brown remains on IR and should have a chance to start if and when he’s ready to return, but it’s unclear whether he’d play left or right tackle.

    On the practice squad, the Pats have rookie tackle Will Sherman, guard Alex Redmond, and center Drake Jackson.