Patriots notebook: Defensive lineman takes persistent path to NFL

Jeremiah Pharms Jr. played at Friends College before the USFL and Arena League, then got his chance with New England.

 

Defensive lineman Jeremiah Pharms Jr. might just be the biggest underdog story on the

New England Patriots – especially when his position coach,

Demarcus Covington,

talks about his unlikely path to the pros.

 

Pharms has gone from an NFL longshot last year to a

member of the Patriots’ 53-man roster and part of the defensive line rotation.

 

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Pharms arrived as barely a blip on the radar in July,

quietly signing after a year with the USFL’s Pittsburgh Maulers.

 

The second-year defensive lineman may not be a household name in New England,

but when Covington was asked,

he could not stop singing the player’s praises

 

“I always joke with Jeremiah and say, ‘One day, hopefully,

I’ll be a part of your story in your book.’

Because I’m just so proud of that dude,” Covington said.

“From Friends College, to out of football, to USFL,

to Arena, to just working a regular job and to now being

on the active roster at the New

England Patriots, which is such a blessing for him,

and really all the credit goes to him.”

 

Pharms started his college career as a linebacker at

Sacramento State College, a junior college,

before transferring to Friends University, an NAIA

program in Wichita, Kansas.

As a junior, he added weight and moved to the defensive

line, going on to have a breakout year in 2019.

 

The 6-foot-3, 301-pounder went undrafted by the NFL in 2020 and eventually

landed in the USFL with the Maulers, who took him in the league’s inaugural player draft.

Pharms spent the 2022 season on the practice squad

before making his NFL debut in 2023.

On the field, Pharms has only played 54 defensive snaps in his career.

But in the Patriots’ facility, he’s long impressed coaches with his work ethic.

 

Every single day, Jeremiah is working on something.

In the morning, probably one of the first guys in there,

last one off the field, asks great questions in the meeting room.

Even when he was on the practice squad, he prepared as

if he was a starter on defense,” Covington said.

“Now you see a guy that’s on the active roster, that suited up on game days,

that’s reaping the rewards … Can’t say enough good

words about him and what he’s done for us, and just the kind of man he is.”

 

Pharms, who was signed from the practice squad

to the 53-man roster at the start of November,

has played in nine games this season, accumulating six tackles.

His playing time has run up and down this year.

Most recently he played six snaps in the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

 

Slowly but surely, Pharms has been working his way

into the Patriots’ defense. If Covington’s comments are any indication,

 

the 27-year-old is making the most of the chances he’s been given.

 

That’s something he’s shown ever since he tried to crack the NFL.

 

“I talked a lot to scouts. They told me they think I have what it takes,” Pharms said to Steelers

Takeaways in 2022 before signing in New England.

“I have the speed and power to play. It’s just the level of competition I played at.

 

I think the Friends University tag hurt in terms of getting

 

NFL notice, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.”

 

So far it hasn’t.

 

WHAT DOES MAC Jones need to do to get another

chance to play this season? Outside of injury,

what would it take for the Patriots’ 2021 first-round pick to start again?

 

Those questions were posed to offensive coordinator Bill

O’Brien during his media availability Tuesday.

While some might expect Bailey Zappe to start the rest of the way,

O’Brien left the door ajar for Jones to play again.

 

“I think everybody’s got to be ready to play, especially

in the situation we’re in.

I really do,” O’Brien said.

“I think that everybody has to be ready to go. … I know you’ve heard that from Bill (Belichick),

but that’s the truth. You have to be ready to go because if

you practice really well, you’re going to have a real shot to play.

I think that goes for every position.”

 

Jones lost his job as the starter after being yanked from four games, including back-to-back

against the Colts and Giants. He threw 10 touchdown

passes but also had 12 interceptions.

 

Zappe has started the past three games. He didn’t put up any points against the Los Angeles

Chargers but did do enough to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers.

As was the case in the Pittsburgh game,

Zappe started well Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs

but fizzled in the second half.

He’s thrown killer interceptions in each of the last two games.

 

COACHES IN DARK: Like thousands of Massachusetts residents,

Patriots coaches Cam Achord and Bill O’Brien lost power at home.

While both were at the team facility Tuesday, they

have had to rough it out at home this week amid the power outage.

 

“I had to go all the way to Rhode Island to get gas to bring

back to put in the back of the

generator for my wife and 7-month-old at home,” Achord said.

“So it’s been a fun 24 hours at home,

you can say.

She’s sick and he’s not doing too well. Then the power goes out.

So just a perfect storm.”

 

The Patriots are set to hit the road for a Christmas Eve game in Denver.

That in itself will be tough.

Making matters

worse is the possibility the power may not be back by then.

 

“It’s tough. I don’t know about everybody else but yeah,

the power’s out,” O’Brien said.

“The internet’s down, which is tough when you’ve got

a college kid on Christmas break. … Somebody

said it’s going to be like a week before the power comes on.

I hope not. That will be a tough situation for all of us.”

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