Etling’s transition to receiver, with additional responsibilities on special teams, captured the attention of many at Patriots training camp. Receiver Phillip Dorsett said Etling — who was a 2018 seventh-round draft choice out of LSU — reminded him of New Orleans Saints quarterback/slash option Taysom Hill.
The Patriots also have a notable history of players making a successful position switch, headlined by Julian Edelman going from college quarterback to NFL receiver.
Etling spent his 2018 rookie season on the Patriots’ practice squad, but in an unusual twist, the team had him attend road games. Practice-squad players usually don’t travel, but coach Bill Belichick said Etling could benefit from being around the team, and Etling’s work ethic was widely respected in the organization. He was often the last player to leave the practice field in training camp.
But the Patriots selected Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham in the fourth round of this year’s draft, and that ultimately bumped Etling off the quarterback depth chart, with no room for a fourth option behind Tom Brady, veteran Brian Hoyer and Stidham.
So he transitioned to receiver, but in recent days Etling had some struggles at the position. He was the intended target on an incomplete fourth-down pass in the preseason opener Thursday night and also was penalized for illegal formation.
Then in Monday’s practice, he bobbled a pass that was intercepted. He was also the intended target on another pass that was picked off.