The Patriots lost in a competitive 27-21 divisional matchup to the Bills in Buffalo that evened the series 1-1. With the loss, New England’s record has fallen to 4-12, putting them back into the sweepstakes for a top-three draft pick. Despite another loss, there are still positives to take away from the game, one of them being rookie cornerback and former Bill, Alex Austin.
Down 14-20 with 5:45 left in the first half, Josh Allen threw it deep down the left sideline on a first down for rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid, but the ball was underthrown and into double coverage, with both Marte Mapu and Austin draping the tight end. While Mapu made sure Kincaid could not make a play on the ball, Austin high pointed it for the interception. Allen should’ve known not to trust a guy with two first names.
The pick from Allen was the rookie’s first of his rather turbulent NFL career. Since being drafted by Buffalo with the 252nd overall pick in the seventh round of the 2023 draft, Austin has been on three NFL rosters. Austin was waived by the Bills on August 29th, he was then claimed the very next day by the Houston Texans, where he would stay until being waived on October 14th, he would then re-sign to the Texans’ practice squad. On November 1st, Austin would be released by Houston, then picked up by New England, who has been struggling with cornerback depth after the injury to first rounder Christian Gonzalez and the release of Jack Jones.
Austin was thrust into the fire in week 15 against the Kansas City Chiefs, where he unexpectedly played all 65 defensive snaps in the game. As Bill Belichick always says, everyone needs to be ready. The reason for the rookies’ surprise start was due to a gametime scratch of J.C. Jackson, who was reportedly dealing with some mental health issues, along with Shaun Wade already being inactive. Versus the Chiefs, Austin would give up five catches on seven targets for 35 yards and a touchdown. The following week in Denver, Austin would start again, making just one tackle.
Before being drafted late by the Bills, Austin was a three-star recruit out of Long Beach Polytechnic High School, where he played cornerback and wide receiver, along with returning kicks and punts. Austin would play his college ball at Oregon State, where he would redshirt his 2019 freshman season, playing in just three games as a reserve corner, picking up 7 tackles and a pass breakup.
The following year, the Long Beach native would start in five games, recording 29 tackles and two pass breakups. Austin would improve upon his 2020 season in 2021, putting up nearly 50 tackles while becoming a problem in the passing game, breaking up seven passes and intercepting two. In his last season with the Beavers, Austin would show out with 57 tackles, ten pass breakups, a sack, and two interceptions, one of which being a pick six.
At Oregon, Austin showed great tackling skills and an ability to hit hard, along with obvious coverage skills, being able to anticipate and break on the ball. The corner’s height shows itself in his play, using his long arms and frame to break up passes and box out defenders. Austin also showed no hesitation to get involved in run support.
The Oregon State product had a decent performance at the 2023 combine, recording a 40 time of 4.55 seconds, along with measuring at 6’1’’ and 195 pounds. Austin’s size and speed certainly echoes the desired dimensions for a modern NFL corner, being tall and rangy, traits similar to Gonzalez. Austin also boasts a high football I.Q., an important trait when playing in New England. Austin scored a combine/prospect grade of 5.86, which is equivalent to a projected backup/ special teamer. On Sunday, Austin certainly played above that level, recording three tackles, a pass breakup, and of course the interception.
Austin and the Patriots will be sure to leave it all out on the field this coming Sunday in their last game of the season against the division-rival New York Jets. If Jackson is still out, Austin will have his hands full once again, facing an experienced and talented receiving core led by Garrett Wilson. With Trevor Siemian likely being at the helm for the Jets again, Austin and the defense will have their opportunities to make big plays.
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