FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots filled their squad goals Sunday, rounding out an expanded 16-player practice group with a lot of familiar faces a day after submitting their initial 53-man roster.
Less than 24 hours after cutting 24 players, New England welcomed 16 right back through the Gillette Stadium doors as the team begins its deep-dive preparations for Sunday’s opener against the Dolphins.
Kickers Nick Folk and rookie Justin Rohrwasser will continue their summer battle, though it’s likely Folk will be elevated to the active roster as soon as a slot opens up.
Bill Belichick and his staff brought back a pair of receivers in Devin Ross, who spent last year on the club’s practice squad and undrafted rookie Isaiah Zuber, both of whom flashed in camp.
In addition, the team plans to sign receiver Mason Kinsey, who caught 203 passes for 3,343 yards, and 50 touchdowns at Division 3 Berry (Ga.) College. The school announced the signing of Kinsey, who spent time this summer with the Titans. Kinsey is a shifty slot receiver who could also help on special teams. He is expected to go through the COVID-19 testing protocol this week
Former Boston College tight end Jake Burt was brought back, rejoining a group that is heavy on youth with fellow rookies Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene as well as third-year player Ryan Izzo.
Rookie running back J.J. Taylor, whom coach Ivan Fears referred to as “mini Dion [Lewis],” is back to provide depth to a corps that lost Lamar Miller to the cuts and has been without Damien Harris, who has been out for the last week with a hand injury.
Tight end/fullback Paul Quessenberry, who joined camp late after a stint in the Marines, was recalled and he can provide emergency depth at both spots after playing defensive end at the Naval Academy.
On defense, rookie sixth-rounder Cassh Maluia and second-year player Terez Hall both return to bolster the linebacking corps. Both showed excellent instincts over the summer.
On the defensive line, Xavier Williams, Tashawn Bower, and Nick Thurman, who served on the practice squad last year, and undrafted rookies Bill Murray and Rashod Berry all are back in the fold.
Berry, who played tight end and defensive end at Ohio State, played exclusively on defense this summer and stood out at times, particularly in the one-on-one drills.
The Patriots, who have a history of developing undrafted cornerbacks, have two more in D’Angelo Ross and rookie Myles Bryant.
Ross was on the right track in camp last year before he was sidelined with a preseason injury that cost him the season. He’s fast and has the versatility to play all over the secondary. Bryant has excellent feet, mirror skills, and late burst on the ball.
Byrd breathes easy
Damiere Byrd, who made a strong case to be New England’s No. 3 receiver with an excellent camp, wasn’t taking that for granted on Saturday, knowing the fickle nature of roster building in the NFL
“I think it doesn’t matter who you are, cut day is always not a good day,’' he said after Sunday’s practice. “You never know what’s going to happen.’'
Still, the fifth-year veteran liked what he did on the field.
“I think my philosophy is every cut day I’m going to go in positive, no matter what type of camp I’ve had,’' he said. “So, going into [Saturday], I was positive. I did whatever I could to get my mind off of it and just have a good day.’'
An undrafted free agent, Byrd liked what he saw out of some of New England’s young receivers, particularly the speedy Zuber.
“Zub — he can run, he can make plays. He made plays all through camp,’' Byrd said. “I always kind of look toward those [undrafted] young guys and kind of watch them. It makes me happy that he’s still here. He’s got a lot to learn … and I’m just glad he’s around so that he can learn from us, learn from our coaches, and become a better player.’'
Receiver/returner Gunner Olszewski, Harris, and nose tackle Beau Allen were the only players missing from a full-pads workout on the lower fields that veteran defensive end John Simon said, “still felt like a camp practice.’' … N’Keal Harry, who wears his hair up, explained the special handshake he has with Cam Newton: “We just do a little dap up with some hairspray, because, you know, I got the hair. So, he just gave me a little hairspray handshake. Definitely keeps us loose out there.” … Simon was asked if he had any chirps planned for former teammate Ted Karras, now a Dolphins center. “I’m sure Ted will have something for me. I’m happy for him,’' Simon said of one of the most popular players in the New England locker room the last four years. “He’s a great player. Did a lot of great things here.’' … The Patriots didn’t claim any players or have any of their own players claimed on waivers.