This past weekend was extremely busy for the Patriots.
Heading into Saturday, the roster was at 75. It had to be cut down to 53. Both Rob Ninkovich and Tom Brady, who are both serving suspensions, did not count against the 53, meaning only twenty players had to be cut.
Here are those who were released.
Tyler Gaffney – RB
Joey Iosefa – RB
DeAndre Carter – WR
Devin Lucien – WR
Chris Harper – WR
Keshawn Martin – WR
Aaron Dobson – WR
Bryce Williams – TE
Chris Baker – OL
John Halapio – OL
Markus Kuhn – DL
Woodrow Hamilton – DL
Joe Vellano – DL
Geneo Grissom – DL
Rufus Johnson – LB
Kevin Snyder – LB
Kamu Grugier-Hill – LB
Cre’Von LeBlanc – CB
Darryl Roberts – CB
Vinnie Sunseri – S
Out of those twenty cuts, some were surprising, some were not.
I expected guys like Sunseri, Snyder, Johnson, Vellano, Hamilton, Kuhn, Halapio, Baker, and Williams to get the axe. Neither of them made any huge, or big, for that matter, splashes during the preseason. I didn’t think they had a chance at making the roster, and the Patriots agreed.
But let’s talk about the others.
Geneo Grissom was a relatively surprising cut. With Rob Ninkovich suspended and Jabaal Sheard battling injury, the possibility of Grissom making the roster was real. His play throughout the preseason wasn’t anything crazy, but it was solid. However, he was buried on the depth chart. Before being suspended there was Ninkovich, Sheard, Chris Long, Trey Flowers, and new addition Barkevious Mingo in front of him. Grissom did not do enough to climb up the ladder.
Darryl Roberts didn’t either. After coming into the season low on the cornerback depth chart, Roberts logged serious playing time. But it was to no avail. We knew that there would be multiple players fighting for that fifth spot. Ultimately, Jonathan Jones won the competition and Roberts was cut.
I said in my Week 4 Players To Watch piece that Cre’Von LeBlanc would not be playing against the Giants due to injury. I also said that because of that injury, LeBlanc probably wouldn’t make the roster. That was correct. Despite having a good camp and playing well in the preseason, LeBlanc wasn’t available when he needed to be.
The final surprising cut on defense was Kamu Grieger-Hill. I thought he’d make this roster. He has an extremely high motor and seems to be tough as nails. He’s undersized, so I didn’t think he’d make the team as a linebacker, but I did think he could grab a special teams spot. But I was wrong. Apparently Grieger-Hill did not show enough to remain on the roster.
One guy who was under the microscope all preseason long was Tyler Gaffney. His story is one that everyone knows. He was drafted three years ago, but had yet to see the field. He tore up one knee, placing him on IR, and then tore up the other, landing him on IR again. This season was supposed to be his first. Unfortunately, it won’t be with the Patriots. Gaffney, in spite of having a good preseason and showing his ability, has a skillset too similar to that of LeGarrette Blount. The Patriots just don’t need him. They’re offense is pass-based, they don’t need multiple power running backs on the roster. That’s why Gaffney, and Joey Iosefa, for that matter were cut from the team.
That brings us to our last group.
On Saturday, Bill Belichick cut five wide receivers.
It was not terribly surprising that DeAndre Carter, Devin Lucien, and Chris Harper all were let go. It was, though, that both Aaron Dobson and Keshawn Martin were.
Dobson was a homegrown product who’s shown flashes of brilliance and Martin, who was brought in last year, played well. I said all preseason that they were fighting over one roster spot.
Throughout the four weeks, neither of them did anything special. Martin was quiet, and Dobson made some glaring mistakes. On Friday, I thought it was clear who had won this battle.
Martin caught a touchdown pass from Tom Brady
Tom Brady To Keshawn Martin Touchdown pic.twitter.com/uLXVYfrIXn
— PatriotsNation™ (@Jordanems) September 2, 2016
And Dobson allowed Brady to be picked by not fighting back for a ball on an in route
— FantasyFootballChick (@liveocgirl) September 1, 2016
Seemed to me that Keshawn Martin would make the roster and Dobson would be cut. However, it turned out that both would be sent packing. It wasn’t a move that I saw coming, but it’s one that makes sense.
Those were the players who were cut. But which ones would remain on the practice squad?
Yesterday, it was reported that quite a few cut players still had lockers set up in Foxborough.
Guys who still have patriots lockers: Crevon, Gaffney, Harper, Kamu, Woodrow, Lucien, barker, Darryl Roberts
— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) September 4, 2016
I expected this from the Pats, especially when it came to Grugier-Hill, LeBlanc, Roberts, Harper, and Carter. The five of them were probably #54-58 on the roster. The team didn’t want to let them go completely. But that’s what ended up happening.
Chris Harper was claimed by the San Francisco 49ers, Grugier-Hill by the Philadelphia Eagles, LeBlanc by the Chicago Bears, Roberts by the New York Jets, and Carter refused to stay.
It sucks that those five had to go, but that’s the risk of cutting guys. The Pats knew they could get scooped up, and now they’ll have to live with that.
Obviously, though, there is still a practice squad.
Geneo Grissom, Devin Lucien, and Woodrow Hamilton will all be sticking around. Also, both Devin Street, formerly of the Cowboys, and Bishop Sankey, formerly of the Titans, signed on to the practice squad too.
We’ve gone over who got cut, who got claimed, and who’s on the practice squad, but who’s still on the active roster?
Well, it’s my job to tell you.
Here are the unofficial depth charts for the Patriots
The quarterback situation was to be expected. Brady, Garoppolo, Brissett. No surprises.
Both LeGarrette Blount and James White were locks to make the roster, but oh boy, D.J. Foster here to stay. I’ve been high on Foster since he was signed in the Spring. He’s a dynamic athlete who plays with a smoothness that’s undeniable. I see a lot of Arian Foster in him, and I’m excited to see what he can do this season. Also, both James Develin and Brandon Bolden made the 53-man roster, too.
Because five wideouts were cut on Saturday, only Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, and Malcolm Mitchell remain. It’s bizarre to think that a team with such a high-powered passing attack only has four receivers on the roster. Most of the Patriots’ offense is based on the dink and dunk passes, which makes having three slot receivers and a rookie, seem okay, but I think the Pats will be on the lookout for another wideout.
One position where the team isn’t lacking is tight end. As of now, four tight ends are on the roster. Rob Gronkowski and Marcellus Bennett were solid bets to make the team. A.J. Derby played his way onto the roster. And apparently Clay Harbor did as well. I guess this makes sense. The Patriots already have Gronk, the biggest weapon in the NFL, anything beyond him just adds depth to a position that was already rock-solid.
I’m not going to go too far into the offensive line. We knew who would make the team. Ted Karras was the closest thing to a surprise, but when it comes to this position group, I’m not into feel-good stories. Everyone, from Solder, to Karras, needs to perform. That’s it.
There were no surprises at defensive end. Rob Ninkovich is serving a suspension, but he made the team. (Duh.) Jabaal Sheard will be there. Chris Long will be there. And Trey Flowers will be there. This group is set up exactly as was expected.
In the interior, though, there were some surprises. Alan Branch and Malcolm Brown were always going to make the team, but Anthony Johnson and Vincent Valentine were not guaranteed. However, after the two of them played well in the preseason, they were able to nudge out guys like Markus Kuhn and Joe Vellano for roster spots. Now, I don’t know what to expect from either of these two, but I expect them to contribute. Anthony Johnson had two monster games against the Saints and Giants. He’s shown he can play at a high level. It would be extremely valuable for him to add another layer of depth at the tackle position.
Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower will anchor the linebacking corps. Jonathan Freeny will play a lot, and offseason acquisitions Shea McClellin and Barkeviovs Mingo will too. But, in all honesty, this position group looks like the Patriots’ strongest. Collins and Hightower are two of the best backers in the league, and Freeny, McClellin, and Mingo are all high-quality players too. I wouldn’t be surprised if two, or maybe more, of these guys make either the Pro-Bowl or All-Defensive teams in 2016.
At cornerback, there weren’t any shockers. Malcolm Butler will play the #1, Logan Ryan at the #2, Cyrus Jones and Justin Coleman have #3 and #4, and Jonathan Jones will be the fifth corner.
The situation at safety is the same. Like we all knew, Devin McCourty and Pat Chung will start. Duran Harmon and Nate Ebner will see a lot of playing time. And Jordan Richards and Brandon King will be predominantly special teamers.
Stephen Gostkowski will kick, Ryan Allen will punt, Joe Cardona will long snap, and Matthew Slater will fly down the field and drop whoever has the football.
So there you have it, who got cut, who’s on the practice squad, and who’s still here.
This is just preliminary, though.
Like Bill Belichick said, it’s early, a lot of roster changes have yet to come. We should see some more guys moving around, both leaving and coming.
But that’s enough roster talk. We’ve got less than a week until Patriots’ football, and that’s what I’m most excited for.