Few Easy Decisions for the Coaching Staff
The Patriots roster currently has 82 players listed, by tomorrow afternoon at 4 p.m. that number will be slashed as seven players will be released. The team has to be at the league mandated 75 player limit Tuesday. An additional 22 players will be released just a few days after that on Sept. 3 as all NFL teams must be at the 53-man roster limit. With the depth of the current roster, there will be few easy decisions for the coaching staff and for the players on the roster bubble, this will be the uneasy time of wondering if they did enough to warrant sticking around.
One area to monitor will be the cornerback position. With Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan and Cyrus Jones roster locks and Justin Coleman a near roster certainty, that leaves one spot open for three deserving players.
“It’s tough,” Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan said. “It’s always a tough time. These are your friends on and off the field. You get to know the people’s families. It’s what drives me so hard personally, and I think other guys too. Because this job is so hard, and it’s a business, and this is the hardest part of it every year.”
Cre’Von LeBlanc was given the most opportunity to shine this week against Carolina and he has responded in my opinion in a big way. He’s very competitive and like all good corners has a short memory. He won’t let a play where an opposing receiver makes a play effect his next snap. The least athletic (numbers wise) of the three, he’s allowed the most receptions but has faced the best competition frequently seeing the opposition’s starters.
Jonathan Jones and Darryl Roberts have each acquitted themselves well this summer. Both are extremely athletic and have produced on the field. Roberts, while playing albeit later in games has allowed only 1 pass completion in 11 attempts and has three passes defensed. Jones has allowed a few more receptions but he too has been solid. What could turn the table in regards to those players are special teams contributions. Both Jones and Roberts have made plays on STs this summer and that can’t be discounted when the cut-down takes place.
Another area to watch is the defensive line. On the interior, veteran Terrance Knighton has to be feeling the heat right now. He’s struggled to pick up the Patriots two-gap system and has been being outplayed by Markus Kuhn and Anthony Johnson. With Malcom Brown and rookie Vincent Valentine (by virtue of his draft position) locked, it leaves two additional spots. Kuhn and Johnson, as well as Knighton, are vying for one while veteran Alan Branch should lock down the other.
Branch was suspended a week ago by the team but if they didn’t have plans for him, they’d have just released him then. With three slots seemingly locked down, three players are vying for the final spot. Johnson is an intriguing case. The undersized DT has shown nice explosion and disruption inside but could his size work against him? The team has shown that they like to move the bigger edge rushers inside in a sort of NASCAR package on passing downs. They may deem Johnson’s talent can be covered by another player and opt for another bigger body inside.
Edge rushers Geneo Grissom and Rufus Johnson will be interesting cases. Now with the addition of Barkevious Mingo, that will obviously impact not only the entire roster but specifically the defensive side of the ball. One or both of them could be looking at the axe in the coming days.
“It makes you appreciate… this is my ninth year, and I’ve seen people come and go,” defensive end Chris Long told the media on Sunday. “It just makes you appreciate things. And any time you come to work, you come into the building, you should cherish that.”
At wide receiver, the decision whether to activate Danny Amendola from the PUP list or let him start the season there will impact the decision on who gets cut or kept. Aaron Dobson and Keshawn Martin are vying for the fifth and final WR spot on the roster. With Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell roster locks, Amendola’s status will either open up another spot or create an opening.
If Amendola starts the year on PUP, then both Martin and Dobson should be safe and DeAndre Carter, Chris Harper, and Devin Lucien will be looking at practice squad positions. It will be a difficult balance for the coaches this week, trying to decide on how it is best to proceed.
The same is true at the running back position. With LeGarrette Blount, James White and STs ace Brandon Bolden being essentially locked in, who stays and who goes? Tyler Gaffney fills the big back role and has shown he can carry the ball and be effective between the tackles. Rookie D.J. Foster has electric speed and athleticism out of the backfield but missed nearly all summer with a hamstring injury.
Can either one of these players crack the roster or will the team opt to bring in a veteran who may find himself on the outs elsewhere? One thing is for sure, the Patriots will be scouring the waiver wire, not only tomorrow but in the coming days. That’s why the 53-man roster on September 3, is seldom the one you’ll see later in the season.
The sad part of the business side of the NFL is that about 30 players on the Patriots roster will be out of work in the next week. Many of them have earned a place at the table but it comes down to a simple numbers crunch.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2016 Patriots Roster 53 Man Roster Projection Alan Branch Bill Belichick Chris Long Cre'von Leblanc Darryl Roberts Dion Lewis Dont'a Hightower Geneo Grissom Jabaal Sheard Jimmy Garoppolo Jonathan Jones Julian Edelman LaGarrette Blount Logan Ryan Malcolm Butler New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Patriots running backs Patriots wide receivers Rob Ninkovich Terrance Knighton Tom Brady Trey Flowers