Malik Cunningham playing quarterback is nothing new, even if that position isn't what the New England Patriots signed him to play. An undrafted free agent out of Louisville, Cunningham played quarterback in college but was converted to wide receiver in New England in hopes of making the roster.
The Patriots have used Cunningham at quarterback in some training camp practices, and transferred that into game action. Cunningham played quarterback in the fourth quarter of Thursday's 20-9 preseason loss to the Houston Texans, completing 3 of 4 passes for 19 yards. He also led the team in rushing, having five carries for 34 yards and a touchdown -- the team's only touchdown of the night.
Fair to say Cunningham provided a spark in the offense.
"That's his opportunity. He's done a good job with it," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said of Cunningham playing quarterback. "He's embraced it, he's worked hard, he's improved a lot as a receiver. Snaps he's had at quarterback in practice and tonight, he's done a pretty good job."
Cunningham's athleticism has stood out in training camp, similar to his playing days at Louisville. He threw for 9,660 yards and 70 touchdowns while rushing for 3,179 yards and 50 touchdowns in five seasons. Not only did Cunningham succeed Lamar Jackson at Louisville, but Belichick has a history of converting good college quarterbacks into NFL wide receivers (see Julian Edelman).
No matter what role Cunningham is in, he's good with whatever New England asks of him.
"It feels good. I mean tough player, I'm a team player, so whatever the coaches need me to do, I'm going to do it for the team," Cunningham said. "That's what happened, Coach told me to go to quarterback, and we had no touchdowns, so I told the O-line, the whole group, that we were going to go down and score and that's what we did."
Cunningham could be competing with Trace McSorley for the third quarterback job or with multiple others for a wide receiver spot on the depth chart. His versatility is more than intriguing for a Patriots offense that could benefit from his skill set.
"Is it difficult? No, I feel like I'm a very clever, smart kid and the coaches have been doing a good job with me, explaining, breaking it down, helping me learn," Cunningham said on playing quarterback. "The quarterbacks, the receivers, all those guys have been nothing but help to me, so I appreciate them."