Report: Malik Cunningham is part of the Patriots’ game plan, could play interesting role Sunday


Jeff Howe reports that Cunningham may need to be used “elsewhere,” rather than at quarterback or wide receiver.

Malik Cunningham could have an interesting regular season debut if elevated from the Patriots practice squad. (AP Photo/Greg M. Cooper)
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Malik Cunningham is one of the Patriots’ most intriguing developmental players. The former Louisville quarterback has practiced both as a quarterback and wide receiver during his short time in New England.

According to The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, Bill Belichick and the Patriots could utilize Cunningham in even more interesting ways this Sunday against the Las Vegas Raiders.

New England’s practice squad elevations will be finalized on Saturday, and it seems Cunningham may be promoted to the active roster. Howe reports that the undrafted free agent has been a part of the Patriots’ game plan this week.

Howe also added an interesting note at the end of his social media post about Cunningham’s potential role, given the uncertain status of many players following Friday’s injury report.

“With seven players already ruled out and 10 more listed as questionable, they [New England] may need to use [Cunningham’s] promotion/activation elsewhere,” Howe wrote.

That post on X generated a lot of buzz about what exactly “elsewhere” entails when it comes to Cunningham. Belichick has made some unique personnel decisions in the past to compensate for injuries. At one point, Belichick used former Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman as a defensive back.

Could Cunningham be deployed on the defensive side of the football? Possibly. The Patriots’ defensive back group is incredibly thin thanks to a plethora of injuries to key players. More likely, however, is Cunningham’s potential role on special teams.

“Malik’s worked really hard and made a lot of improvement. He never really played in the kicking game at Louisville, so he’s started to show up there,” Belichick said during his Friday press conference. “He’s a smart kid, works hard, and the opportunities he’s had, he’s shown a lot of improvement.”

If the Patriots are running too thin in some special teams spots, it’s possible Cunningham could fall into that role if in fact he is elevated from the practice squad. He could also be considered situationally on offense, be it as a gadget quarterback or wide receiver.

Fans reacted to the news of Cunningham’s status positively, hoping he can recreate the excitement he sparked in the preseason, at whatever position he winds up playing.

Cunningham’s role won’t be revealed until New England kicks off against the Raiders at 4:05 p.m. Eastern time Sunday.