With the Patriots’ roster sitting currently at 73 (not including Tom Brady and Rob Ninkovich who are both suspended for the first four weeks), New England has some decisions to make in the remaining few hours before the 4:00 pm deadline. 20 players need to be cut from the roster, and those decisions will be tough. Some will make it to the practice squad, some will catch on with another team, and some will come to the tough realization that their childhood dream is likely over.
Time for positional breakdowns and projections:
QB (2) : Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett, (Tom Brady = Suspended)
With Brady out the first four weeks, Garoppolo will get his first chance at the starting job. Rookie Jacoby Brissett will back up Jimmy. Brady’s roster spot does not count until week four.
RB (4) : LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden, James White, Tyler Gaffney, (Dion Lewis = PUP)
CUTS: Joey Iosefa, D.J. Foster
The running back position is shrouded in mystery for the Patriots. No one really knows if Blount can continue to be the lead back for this team. Bolden has been an important piece on special teams and has provided some sparks on offense with his pass-protection and catching. White was a solid replacement for Dion Lewis last year, without the flashiness, but he may not be able to do that consistently for a full season. Gaffney has not played a game in his two years, spending both seasons on IR, but he has shown some ability in the preseason and in his college career at Stanford.
Iosefa gets cut because he wasn’t given many opportunities in the preseason, as he attempted just six carries in all four games. He hasn’t really shown anything other than that one run again the Titans last year.
I would like to see Foster sneak his way onto the practice squad. His pass-catching ability is clearly special, but having played in only two preseason games due to health, New England may not have seen enough to make a full commitment to the undrafted rookie.
FB (1) : James Develin
The Patriots are one of the only teams that still use a FB consistently, and with the offensive line starting to show signs of another tough year, Develin may be even more useful than previously expected.
TE (3) : Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett, A.J. Derby
CUTS: Clay Harbor, Bryce Williams
Gronkowski and Bennett are locks to make this roster. Providence Journal writer Mark Daniels floated on the idea that Bennett could be cut, but I believe he is a top ten tight end in the league and the reward of keeping him around outweighs the risk.
I don't think Bennett is a roster lock. Patriots would save over $4.5 million by cutting him. Still would be a surprise, but you never know
— Mark Daniels (@MarkDanielsPJ) August 27, 2016
Derby has earned himself a roster spot. He fought for the ball and made some incredible catches in the first two games. Unfortunately for him, he dropped a pass in the third game that got him some grief from the media and fans. Overall, I think he has improved over the last season and deserves a chance to showcase his talents.
When Harbor was signed at the end of March, for some reason I got really excited. In my mind, I remembered Clay Harbor having a semi-productive career in Jacksonville, but in reality, he recorded four touchdowns and 730 yards in his three seasons. Like Iosefa, the TE got little recognition in the preseason, receiving just two passes in four games. Williams had a nice camp but hasn’t been productive in the preseason, catching just one pass for no gain.
WR (6) : Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, Matthew Slater, Malcolm Mitchell, Aaron Dobson
CUTS: DeAndre Carter, Devin Lucien, Chris Harper, Keshawn Martin
Edelman, Amendola, Hogan, and Slater were all but guaranteed a spot on this roster. Mitchell would likely make it, but when he suffered a dislocated elbow in the preseason opener, I wondered if Belichick would try and slide him on the IR to gain another roster spot. It looks like Mitchell will be able to contribute at some point early in the season when he is fully healed. Dobson may come as a surprise to some, but I think he is a different type of WR than Edelman, Amendola, and even Martin. He has the potential to play like LaFell in 2014, but he has a hard time staying healthy. If he makes the roster, he has a short leash, not only with the coaching staff, but with the fans and teammates as well.
Carter showed some flashes in camp, but it never amounted to anything in the preseason. His size, at 5’8″, does make it a little tough for him to play the position. Lucien was a long-shot to make the team, but the team took a late flyer on him after his stellar senior season at Arizona State. He may be able to stay with the team on the practice squad. Although many fans of the Patriots are still mad at Chris Harper for muffing the punt against Denver last season, I am actually a fan of his game. He had a really good preseason last year but has not really been given a consistent opportunity in the regular season. Martin is another guy who plays in the slot. He is insurance for Amendola and Edelman, and he was also an asset in the return game. Now nearly all his roles may be filled. His roster spot is almost interchangeable with Dobson for me. They will likely keep one or the other.
OT (4) : Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, LaAdrian Waddle, Cameron Fleming, (Sebastian Vollmer = PUP)
Solder was a lock to make this team. For some reason, New England loves Marcus Cannon. Maybe they are expecting a better year with OL Coach Dante Scarnecchia returning, but he hasn’t been great in recent memory. He will step up and replace Sebastian Vollmer for atleast the first six weeks. Without Vollmer, the Patriots will need a lot of help to protect the right side of the line. They may role out some jumbo sets with an extra tackle on the field. This is a situation where Fleming thrives. We haven’t seen much of him playing at the actual tackle spot, but when he was there, it was nothing special. I haven’t been particularly impressed by Waddle’s play, but he is another OT that Belichick likes for some reason. At least he is a guy with experience.
G (4) : Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney, Jonathan Cooper, Josh Kline, (Tre’ Jackson = PUP)
CUTS: Ted Karras, Jon Halapio, Chris Barker
Mason and Thuney will likely be the starting guards when both healthy. Belichick loves Mason’s athleticism, and Thuney has been the most consistent offensive lineman throughout the preseason. Cooper will make the roster just off of his name. He was the seventh overall pick in 2013, and Dante Scarnecchia was reportedly in love with him. Now that he is in New England, Coach Scar wants the opportunity to get Cooper to perform at his ceiling. Kline has been a good rotational piece at the guard spot over the last two seasons, starting in 26 games. He will be good insurance during the recovery periods for Jackson, Mason, and Cooper who are all dealing with their own injuries.
Karras was a sixth round pick in this year’s draft but has been fighting for a spot ever since. His best hope for making the team is the injuries on the offensive line. He provides depth at both center and guard, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Karras gets added to the practice squad. Halapio has done little to nothing in his second stint with New England. Barker keeps finding his way onto the roster, but I think that has to stop here. It has been going on for too long.
C (2) : David Andrews, Joe Cardona
Andrews beat out Bryan Stork and will be the starting center. The Patriots are undefeated when Andrews is starting. Maybe there is something to that. Cardona will continue his long-snapping duties.
DT (4) : Malcom Brown, Alan Branch, Vincent Valentine, Anthony Johnson
CUTS: Markus Kuhn, Joe Vellano
Brown and Branch were the two locks at this position for me. Even Valentine, being a third round pick, was very unlikely to get cut. He will be tested mentally and physically after questions arose during the draft process about his motor. The battle here really came between Kuhn and Johnson. Johnson had a really strong preseason and showed his ability to force the quarterback out of the pocket and even help close gaps quickly.
Kuhn is a bigger body interior defensive lineman. He would be the third big body at the position. I just believe Johnson gives the team more versatility, and we all know what Belichick thinks about the “v” word. Vellano has been on and off the roster for a few years now, so he could find his way back eventually, but for now, he is off.
DE (5) : Chris Long, Jabaal Sheard, Trey Flowers, Shea McClellin, Geneo Grissom, (Rob Ninkovich = Suspended)
CUTS: Woodrow Hamilton
The DE position was expected to be a deep one going into this season, but with the loss of Rob Ninkovich to a suspension, and Jabaal Sheard dealing with an injury, their are question marks all over the edge guys. Long has proven that he still has something left to give to the NFL. He may not be the double digit sack guy he once was, but there is something there. Flowers played extremely well in the preseason and made some fans confident that he could start at either DE spot if necessary. McClellin did not show much in the two games he played, but he has upside and could improve when he is fully healthy. Grissom recorded 1.5 sacks this preseason, but he is mainly a staple on the special teams units. The injuries may have given him a spot on the roster.
I didn’t know Hamilton was still on the team. That’s all that needs to be said.
LB (6) : Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Barkevious Mingo, Jonathan Freeny, Kamu Grugier-Hill
CUTS: Kevin Snyder, Rufus Johnson, Elandon Roberts
Collins, Hightower, Mingo, and Freeny were near locks to make the roster. Grugier-Hill is an athletic versatile weapon on defense. He can play both linebacker and low-safety. He also plays a role on special teams.
Snyder didn’t do a whole lot for me this preseason. Actually didn’t know he was still on the team either. Johnson performed well during last year’s training camp but has not performed nearly as well this year. Roberts didn’t have a lot of key plays during the preseason, but he led the team in tackles. I thought that would earn him something. He should be brought to the practice squad, because he can serve as a solid backup. He was honestly my last cut.
CB (5) : Malcolm Butler, Cyrus Jones, Logan Ryan, Justin Coleman, Cre’Von LeBlanc
CUTS: Darryl Roberts, Jonathan Jones
Butler, Jones, and Ryan were clear locks for New England. The remainder of the players were competing for two spots. There was not a lot of amazing play from the cornerbacks. I still believe the position could be weak for the Patriots. Coleman played well at time last year, but in other situations, he was burnt like toast. LeBlanc has played rather well this preseason, including an incredible interception in the opener.
Roberts was another player who had a solid camp last year and was shelved for this season. Again, he didn’t perform up to that level. I hope he can find his way to the practice squad, because with some coaching he could be a decent number three CB. Jones was playing well throughout mini-camp and the early portion of training camp, but when it came to game situations there was a drop-off. He could also find himself on the practice squad.
S (6) : Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards, Nate Ebner, Brandon King
CUTS: Vinnie Sunseri
I think all of these players were expected to make the roster, because they all have a specific role to perform. McCourty, Chung, and Harmon all play a high amount of snaps on defense. Richards, Ebner, and King all have impact roles on special teams. This position group won’t be trimmed until somebody gets paid in free agency… likely Harmon in the upcoming offseason.
Sunseri has been nothing special, and with the position group already so deep, it was tough to see him making the roster. I don’t believe he can go to the practice squad, because he has technically been active for nine games in his career.
K (1) : Stephen Gostkowski
P (1): Ryan Allen
Agree? Disagree? Tweet me or comment, and I will do my best to reply! Let’s talk it up!