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Boston Herald
Boston Herald
16 Dec 2023
Doug Kyed

NextImg:Four under-the-radar Patriots players to watch Week 15 vs. Chiefs

The Patriots are set to play their game of the season without any playoff contention on the line.

Officially eliminated from the playoffs Sunday, the Patriots are only playing for draft positioning and pride at this point.

Head coach Bill Belichick will likely still preach doing what’s best for the team in the final four weeks of the season. At this point, that should be with an eye toward the future as the Patriots get a look at more inexperienced players.

Here are four to watch this week against the Chiefs.

The veteran running back has yet to play this season since being claimed off waivers from the Jaguars last month, but logic says that should change this weekend.

With Rhamondre Stevenson still dealing with a high ankle sprain, Hasty and Ezekiel Elliott are the only healthy running backs on the 53-man roster. After dropping a pass and missing a block leading to a blocked punt, running back/wide receiver Ty Montgomery was waived last week to make room for linebacker Christian Elliss.

The Patriots typically like to dress at least three running backs, which means Elliott, Hasty and Kevin Harris, who’s currently on the practice squad, would be on the game day roster.

So, what’s there to know about Hasty? The 5-foot-8, 205-pound Baylor product went undrafted in 2020 before signing with the 49ers. He has 101 career carries for 410 yards with four touchdowns and has caught 50 passes on 65 targets for 316 yards and a touchdown. Hasty has also returned 16 kicks for 299 yards. Given his experience on special teams, he could tasked to replicate Montgomery’s duties on Sundays.

It might also help to spell Elliott with either Hasty or Harris, though the former Cowboys running back was effective in last week’s 21-18 win over the Steelers.

Douglas missed last week’s game in concussion protocol. Fellow rookie Kayshon Boutte (shoulder) and veteran wide receiver DeVante Parker (knee) also were inactive, leading to a breakout game for offseason addition JuJu Smith-Schuster.

Douglas suffered his second concussion of the season in the Patriots’ Week 12 loss to the Giants. He missed contests against the Chargers and Steelers.

It should be helpful for current Patriots quarterback Bailey Zappe to work with Douglas, the team’s top slot receiver. Zappe has also shown good rapport with Parker. Smith-Schuster’s 90-yard performance last Thursday was encouraging. And tight end Hunter Henry caught two touchdown passes.

It’s a lot to ask for Zappe to keep pace with Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But the more weapons available to Zappe, the better against a team that should be one of the AFC’s best.

The Patriots claimed Elliss off waivers from the Eagles last Thursday, but he wasn’t officially added to the roster until Friday since the Patriots played on Thursday night last week.

Head coach Bill Belichick said this week that Elliss has been on the Patriots’ radar for a while. He was a starting defender in Week 13 and was a core special teams player for the Eagles.

Elliss is slightly undersized at 6-foot-3, 231 pounds, but the Idaho product comes with impressive athleticism. He ran a 4.58-second 40-yard dash at his pro day in 2021 with a 35.5-inch vertical leap, 10-feet broad jump, 4.29-second short shuttle and 6.94-second 3-cone drill.

It seems unlikely that Elliss could find a major role on defense at this point in the season, but the Patriots could use all of the help that they can get on special teams. They currently rank 31st in special teams DVOA.

Austin made his Patriots debut last week and got a special shoutout from Belichick after the game for his performance. The rookie played 13 snaps and broke up a pass on his only target.

Austin, 22, has ideal size for an outside cornerback at 6-foot-1, 191 pounds. He was selected by the Bills in the seventh round of the 2023 NFL Draft and was waived at cutdowns. The Texans claimed him, waived him in October, added him to their practice squad and then released him Nov. 1. The Patriots scooped him up onto their 53-man roster on Nov. 2, and he’s been there ever since.

Austin finally dressed because Shaun Wade was inactive with an illness. He showed enough to get another shot on the game day roster.

Mahomes is certainly a test, but the Chiefs’ wide receivers are a mostly inexperienced group.