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New England Patriots: Shaun Wade can be a steal for the Patriots

The New England Patriots have a solid defensive foundation heading into the season. Although, there are a couple question marks regarding overall depth, which was possibly addressed in a trade this past week.

In a trade with the Baltimore Ravens, the New England Patriots acquired rookie cornerback Shaun Wade for a pair of future fifth and seventh round draft picks.

It’s worth mentioning that Baltimore drafted Wade in the fifth round of the NFL Draft nearly four months ago. Unfortunately, the Ravens couldn’t seem to find a role for him in their already crowded defensive backfield. So, as he always does, when presented the opportunity with defensive talent, Bill Belichick can not pass up on it. 

After being a two-time All American in high school, Wade took his talents to Ohio State. Although his draft stock dropped a bit, Wade still had a great season in 2020. He earned the Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year award and was named a Consensus All-American. Wade has certainly played the game at a high caliber five-star level and has the resume to prove it. 

Although it didn’t work out in Baltimore, Wade has a golden opportunity to make the roster in New England. One of the aforementioned question marks regarding overall defensive depth has been the future of Stephon Gilmore and the cornerback position. 

During his time at Ohio State, Wade gained experience playing both the inside and outside cornerback positions. Dating back to 2019, Wade played 81 percent of his snaps as a slot cornerback and 10 percent in the box as a box-safety (nickel safety).

Due to a turf toe injury, Wade was unable to showcase himself at the NFL Combine. Instead, he took part in a mini pro day in April where he reintroduced himself to NFL scouts. It was actually the same pro day that rookie quarterback Justin Fields presented himself in as well.

Wade impressively ran the 40 yard dash in 4.43 seconds, had a 37.5-inch vertical jump, and a 10’3” broad jump. Needless to say, Wade proved that he has the times and measurements necessary to be successful in the NFL. Furthermore, had Wade competed in the combine, he would’ve been ranked as a top 10 defensive back. 

When he was still in Baltimore, Wade was having a standout preseason. In fact, he was tied with fellow rookie Deommodore Lenoir for the lowest passer rating allowed by a rookie cornerback.

 

After only being part of the Patriots for one practice, Wade saw plenty of action in the final preseason game. Wade logged 39 defensive snaps and played well throughout the entire game. He played some outside corner, displayed great press-coverage, and showed that he can move well with outside wide receivers. To which, he received a small amount of praise from coach Belichick.

“Obviously, he’s got a long way to go to catch up. But he’s a smart kid, he works at it and I think he’ll be able to pick things up. It’ll just take a little bit of time, but he seems to pick things up pretty quickly.” – Bill Belichick, per Zack Cox of NESN

It wouldn’t be right of me not to be critical of Wade when it calls for doing so. Wade allowed a late fourth quarter touchdown pass in the front corner of the end zone. It looks like there could have been a slight push from the receiver. However, Wade was already beaten out of position to make a play on the ball. 

In the clip below, you’ll see that Wade is playing as the outside corner. Lined up eight yards from the line of scrimmage on the outside shoulder of receiver Damien Willis. Although Wade does a good job of staying behind his man, he was too far to make a play. This allowed Willis to be in perfect position to make a clean jump-ball touchdown reception.

 

What makes playing for the Patriots so great is that they will find a role for any player to serve if they see the potential in him. We’ve seen it done countless times here in New England. One of the best examples of this is Devin McCourty. McCourty was an All-Pro cornerback early on in his career before Belichick found a better use of his skills as a safety. 

The same thing could happen with Wade here in New England. Perhaps Wade doesn’t cut it as an NFL cornerback, however, he might be a better fit as a safety. With the core group of the Patriots’ defense aging, Wade could find himself in a scenario to eventually replace McCourty. If that does play out, the Patriots will essentially have replaced McCourty and Patrick Chung, who held down the safety positions in New England for more than 10 years.

The need for additional defensive back depth is necessary. Despite the touchdown he allowed, Wade can serve multiple roles for the Patriots. Which we all know versatility is a trait that Bill Belichick blushes over in his players. 

– Justin Trombino (@Trombino20)

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