By: Bob George/BosSports.net
September 02, 2004

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FOXBOROUGH -- They're all healthy. All 53 of them.

Only a smattering of those lucky Patriots to make the final cut had the indignity to play in the 31-0 slopfest at Gillette Stadium Thursday night. Bill Belichick rested most of his starters for the entire game, and the Jacksonville Jaguars still had problems with the "B" defense until they ran out of gas in the fourth quarter. To make matters worse the Patriot "B" offense looked worse than the 1990 crumbums who went 1-15. But the pretend games are now over, and the Patriots can finally now get down to the business of defending their championship.

Good thing. Any more of these exhibition games and the Patriots may be ready to fire Charlie Weis, Dante Scarnecchia, Ivan Fears, Brian Daboll, Jeff Davidson and Josh McDaniels. It's so bad that Belichick may wonder if Ernie Zampese is doing anything these days. In two of the three preseason losses, the Patriots were outscored 62-3. To the lifeboats, one and all.

Seriously, if the Patriot offense has to be entrusted to Rohan Davey this year, we really need to talk in terms of lifeboats. He could turn out to be the worst Patriot quarterback since Scott Secules or Hugh Millen or Marc Wilson. His preseason was the dipolar opposite of his championship over in Europe. Davey should probably head back to some beer garden in Berlin and quaff down some Beck's. He'll feel better instantly, and he'll be among people who adore him.

Davey's play has some effect on how the final roster might turn out. It may turn out that Belichick needs to load up on offensive linemen because of the extreme urgency to protect Tom Brady at all costs. Keeping three tight ends also becomes more attractive.

So, assuming Andy Wasynczuk can make this work (and if has any questions or sticky problems, he can give Miguel Benzan a call), here is how the final roster should shape up.

Quarterbacks (3) - Tom Brady, some veteran, Rohan Davey. Out - Kliff Kingsbury. That veteran quarterback could be Jim Miller. Too bad there wasn't a way to keep Damon Huard, who currently sits third on the Chiefs depth chart. There is no reason to keep Kingsbury unless a veteran cannot be obtained. Davey stays only because he's the best number three man. Look for Belichick to go quarterback on day two next year in the draft, if not earlier.

Running backs (4) - Corey Dillon, Kevin Faulk, Mike Cloud, Patrick Pass. Out - Malaefou Mackenzie. IR/PUP - Cedric Cobbs. Cloud's 91 yards in the game against Jacksonville helped solidify his spot on the roster, but Cobbs' absence helped also. Pass needs to stay because of his pass blocking and special teams play. If Cobbs goes to the PUP list, his return could knock Cloud out of the picture; the smart thinking here is that, thanks to the decent August for Cloud, Cobbs might go IR and take a shot at making the team next year.

Tight ends (3) - Daniel Graham, Ben Watson, Christian Fauria. Out - Joel Jacobs. If Belichick has any inclination to increase manpower elsewhere on the roster, Fauria could be out of the picture. The thinking here ties into protecting Brady, in that three tight ends is better than two. Besides, if the Patriots do go to two-tight end sets, having a third in reserve is a good idea.

Wide receivers (5) - Deion Branch, David Givens, Troy Brown, Bethel Johnson, David Patten. Out - Chas Gessner, Michael Jennings, Ricky Bryant. IR/PUP - P.K. Sam. Protection for Brady impacts this area. But short of a return of some sort by Sam, five wideouts should be it. The three to be cut are simply too much of a dropoff. Gessner seemed to have the best shot at making the team, but the five who will are simply too solid to break up, and may be the best such quintet in the league.

Offensive line (10) - Matt Light, Russ Hochstein, Dan Koppen, Joe Andruzzi, Tom Ashworth, Adrian Klemm, Stephen Neal, Gene Mruczkowski, Bob Hallen (still not yet retired), Brandon Gorin. Out - Jamil Soriano, David Pruce, Tim Provost. The key words are depth and versatility. The Patriots cannot afford to get thin at this position. Ten is the way to go here. Let the debate begin.

Defensive line (6) - Ty Warren, Keith Traylor, Richard Seymour, Jarvis Green, Vince Wilfork, Marquise Hill. Out - Ethan Kelley, Dwight Johnson, Buck Rasmussen. IR - Dana Stubblefield. Willie McGinest or Dan Klecko could conceivably act as a seventh down lineman if necessary. If Belichick is at all considering frequent switches between 3-4 and 4-3, then maybe Kelley sticks and someone else goes. Wilfork came on strong in the last two preseason games, and was especially good Thursday night as a pass rusher even though he was drafted to tie up blockers in a two-gap scheme, not to rush the quarterback.

Linebackers (10) - Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, Roman Phifer, Willie McGinest, Rosevelt Colvin, Ted Johnson, Dan Klecko, Tully Banta-Cain, Larry Izzo, Don Davis. Out - Justin Kurpeikis, Grant Steen, Eric Alexander, Lawrence Flugence. PUP - Matt Chatham. Davis gets the nod over Kurpeikis, who generally had a good August and a good game against the Jaguars. But Davis is a veteran who is helpful on special teams. When Chatham is ready to come back, Belichick will have a tough decision to make. The thinking here is that Klecko had better show in six weeks that this linebacker experiment was a stroke of genius, and that cutting him over Davis would be downright stupid.

Defensive backs (9) - Ty Law, Tyrone Poole, Rodney Harrison, Eugene Wilson, Asante Samuel, Terrell Buckley, Dexter Reid, Shawn Mayer, JeRod Cherry. Out - Christian Morton, Randall Gay, Scott Farley, Earthwind Moreland. IR - Guss Scott. If Scott is not injured, he bumps Mayer. Buckley's experience gets the nod over Gay's semi-potential. Cherry sticks thanks to his special teams play, which also pertains to Reid. The latter would do himself well to show that he is more than just a hammer out on the return teams.

Special teams (3) - Adam Vinatieri, Josh Miller, Lonie Paxton. Out - Cody Skates, Brian Sawyer. No argument on any of these gents.

There you have it. Now, bring on the Colts, and let the title defense begin.


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