The New England Patriots have been signing up former New York Jets players ever since Bill Belichick took over as head coach. To be fair, playbook spies and reclamation projects are not uncommon around the NFL — especially inside the division — but it does feel like Belichick targets ex-NYJ athletes more than most.
His latest Jets pickup was rookie wide receiver T.J. Luther, according to KPRC2 NFL insider Aaron Wilson. Patriots.com staff writer Evan Lazar followed up: “The Patriots placed Tyquan Thornton on IR yesterday, DeVante Parker has missed the last few practices, and Demario Douglas is working his way back from a reported shoulder injury. They’ve now reportedly added [Jalen] Reagor and Luther the last two days.”
The Gardner-Webb product failed to separate himself during camp and the preseason, outshined by fellow UDFAs Jason Brownlee and Xavier Gipson. In the end, the rookie didn’t even do enough to earn a practice squad spot, recording zero catches in live-game action despite five targets from NYJ quarterbacks.
Now the Pats will take a look with early injuries at wide receiver.
Jets Veteran Cuts Alex Erickson & Nick Vigil Land With New NFL Teams
Speaking of Jets cuts, veterans Alex Erickson (WR) and Nick Vigil (LB) have also signed with new teams in recent days. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported on both, noting that the pass-catcher wound up with the Los Angeles Chargers while the defender is headed to the Minnesota Vikings.
Like Luther, both joined the practice squad of their new respective teams.
Erickson is probably the bigger loss for the Jets. The veteran was an emergency option as a returner, as well as a reliable pair of hands that appeared to impress quarterback Aaron Rodgers during the final preseason outing.
The 30-year-old caught two touchdown passes that game with 85 receiving yards throughout August, and the Jets currently have zero wide receivers on the practice squad — although they did keep seven on the active roster.
Vigil was beat out by youngster Chazz Surratt and fellow veteran Sam Eguavoen — who joined the practice squad along with rookie linebacker Caleb Johnson. The seven-year vet finished preseason with 11 total tackles but didn’t do enough to win a job with Gang Green’s 53-man roster at the end of the day.
Jets Surprise Roster ‘Keep’ Irvin Charles Called ‘Absolute Wolf’ on Special Teams
The most unexpected player to make the 53-man roster in 2023 based on predictions was undoubtedly wide receiver Irvin Charles. After a nice summer in 2022, the former undrafted prospect seemingly regressed as an offensive weapon this year — catching three of eight targets for 61 receiving yards and two first downs.
The Green & White did not keep him for his ability as a pass-catcher, however. Jets head coach Robert Saleh explained his roster berth on August 30.
“We were really excited about [Charles] last year, didn’t work out, he’s been on the practice squad,” Saleh began. “The young man’s worked his tail off, and from a special teams standpoint, the sky is the limit.”
“He is an absolute wolf on those units,” the Jets HC went on, adding: “But at the same time, he’s getting better on offense. There [are] a lot of things that he does, still has a long way to go on that side of the ball but what he brings from a special teams standpoint is off the charts.”
Charles could line up as the second punt return coverage gunner across from ST captain Justin Hardee this season, but that won’t be his only role. Jets X-Factor film analyst Michael Nania gave fans a little taste of the youngster’s on-field impact after Saleh’s comments earlier this week.
“He shows constant energy & speed in that phase,” Nania voiced, noting that Charles “jukes out a blocker to stop kick return for 17 yds” in one clip and “burns two 1v1 blocks to force two fair catches” in the others.