The New England Patriots have a tough decision to make in choosing whether or not to keep Gunner Olszewski on their final 53-man roster.
The New England Patriots are fast closing in on the start of their 2019 season, and yet the team still has several unanswered questions regarding various positions on the roster.
Julian Edelman is the reigning Super Bowl MVP, but he’s also only getting older… and it might be time to start thinking about his backup. Could that backup be undrafted rookie wide receiver Gunner Olszewski?
Gunner Olszewski was a Division II standout at Bemidji State, where he played defensive back and also served as the school’s return man. He has tremendous upside in terms of talent, intelligence, and versatility. Like Edelman, he was drafted by a creative, think-outside-the-box team like the Patriots, who have tested him out as a receiver since the start of OTAs and minicamp.
The Patriots are one of the best organizations in the league when it comes to finding and developing talent from unexpected places. The team’s scouting department is an intricately-organized operation that can find hidden ability and versatility in a lot of different players.
For example, Edelman was a great quarterback at Kent State. He joins the Patriots and he becomes a very good specialist first, and then grows into one of the best slot receivers in the entire NFL.
In the last preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, Olszewski was the main punt returner. He was able to rack up 63 yards on four returns. Showcasing great vision and elusiveness, Gunner managed to fly by a lot of defenders and cause numerous missed tackles along the way.
Possessing similar qualities to Edelman when he was a rookie, Olszewski is making the most out of his opportunities so far. On a play when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady scrambled for a first down, Olszewski came soaring back into the action, drilling a defender to protect his defenseless quarterback.
“Gunner’s an aggressive kid. He’s done a nice job handling his roles in the kicking game and offensively. He’s a very competitive kid,” Bill Belichick told reporters, per USA Today’s Devon Clements.
In the same game, Olszewski returned a punt in which he refused to go down to the ground after seemingly being wrapped up by a defender. That particular play ended with Olszewski running right through Carolina’s punter with ease, as well.
With many wide receivers still on New England’s team, the full roster for the position currently looks like this: Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, N’Keal Harry, Demaryius Thomas, Phillip Dorsett, Braxton Berrios, Damoun Patterson, Matthew Slater, and Gunner Olszewski. Of that group, only Edelman, Gordon, and Harry are considered to be safe “locks” at wideout (and technically Slater too, though he only plays on special teams).
Some analysts opine that having too many slot receivers can be a bad thing, but we would have to respectfully disagree. It actually has worked out quite well for the Pats during their years of utilizing both Edelman and Danny Amendola. Considering the advancing age of “Jules,” and the increase of injuries to numerous players over the years, it doesn’t seem like a bad move to keep two backup slot wide receivers on this year’s squad.
“I love the chip on his shoulder, and I like working with him, that’s for sure. He definitely works his tail off, and I like having him around,” said Edelman of Olszewski, per MassLive’s Andrew Callahan.
At the end of the day, Gunner Olszewski definitely has a future in the NFL, and we do think there is a role for him on this current Patriots team. Using a guy like Olszewski in the return game would only help to further preserve and essentially protect Edelman as well.
As the 53-man final roster deadline approaches, it will be interesting to see what the Pats do with the talented and intriguing Olszewski moving forward.