As the final cut down date in the NFL passes everyone tries to analyze who the Patriots cut and who “made the team.” Before you set the roster in stone remember, there will still be some fairly significant moves before kick-off Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers. It is rare (like never) that the original roster stays intact going into game 1. There’s a good chance that by the time you read this article moves will already have occurred.
Who Is Still At Risk?
Those currently still on the roster have outperformed others to reach this point…but, hopefully they won’t relax too quickly. Before going out and buying that luxury SUV or sports car, many need to realize life in the NFL can be very short.
Chris Harper – WR: Reggie Wayne showed he doesn’t have it anymore and asked to be released before he was unceremoniously cut. Sorry Wayne supporters, but Bill Belichick doesn’t keep you if you can’t help and, if he felt Wayne would have, he’d still be a Patriot. With Brandon LaFell on the PUP list and not available until week 7, Harper is hanging on to that final spot. The 21 year old rookie free agent impressed everyone this pre-season, but it is likely at some point the Patriots will try to slip him through waivers and get him on the practice squad.
Dion Lewis/James White/Travaris Cadet – RB: LaGarrette Blount is suspended for the season opener, so the question is who gets the shot Thursday night to show he can fill the big shoes left by Shane Vereen’s departure. When Blount returns, one or two of this trio will be gone, and right now it’s a crapshoot who should stay…and who should go. The surprise cut of fan favorite Jonas Gray left the door open.
To this point Cadet hasn’t been able to see the field because of injuries, White (a 2014 4th round draft pick) has looked better in his second camp and Lewis has risen to the top when given a chance. The injury to James Develin really doesn’t impact this trio, but it did allow a longer look-see for the coaching staff. Right now the only power running back on the roster is Belichick favorite Brandon Bolden.
This Year’s Surprise Cut
Bill Belichick is known for his “surprise” cuts and this year’s edition was Jonas Gray. After last year’s dazzling performance against the Indianapolis Colts, Gray literally disappeared and Blount came back to town. Most predicted he was a lock this year, but it looks like he never really escaped Belichick’s doghouse.
Don’t be too shocked if there are more moves to come as the team brings possible additions through the swinging doors at Gillette Stadium. Moves in the secondary still seem likely to occur and the fate of many will be in the hands of the best Head Coach in the NFL. The good news is, no matter what, the Belichick-Tom Brady connection is still intact and ready to punish the doubters.
Training Camp has begun and with it, comes the injuries. As of August 8th, 24 out of the 90 players on the roster are missing practice due to health/rehab issues. So, with that, we get to see more unknown players get more reps and show why they should wear a Patriots uniform come September. Here are some players to keep an eye on as the Packers game approaches on the 12th.
RBs Jonas Gray and Tyler Gaffney: With incumbent RB LaGarrette Blount spraining his MCL and missing Game 1 against Pittsburgh with a suspension, the backup running back position is something that really needs more attention. Gray had that 4 TD game against Indianapolis last year and did nothing else and Gaffney was hurt all last year. Seeing that James White, Dion Lewis and Travaris Cadet are battling for the “Vereen” Role, we need to figure out who can be the road grater for whomever is playing Quarterback. Both Gray and Gaffney are likely fighting for one roster spot, so this is something to look for.
TE Jake Bequette: As Bequette pretty much washed out as a defensive end, the former 3rd round pick was moved to TE this offseason and has been a pleasant surprise in camp. He’s been stretching the field and catching the ball well. With this size (6’5, 275) and quickness (4.07 shuttle and 6.90 three cone drill at his Pro Day in 2013), he could be an intriguing player to watch. Obviously, he is still a big project, but definitely someone to keep an eye on.
G/C Josh Kline: One of the biggest areas of uncertainty is at Guard. With rookies Tre Jackson and Shaq Mason starting together the other day, you still have the void left by not resigning Dan Connolly (and then his subsequent retirement). Kline is a guy who has appeared in 21 games, starting 6 starts (one in the AFC Championship against Indianapolis) since joining the Patriots as an undrafted free agent out of Kent State in 2013. He has the ability to play all interior spots, and could be a surprise starter at one of the guard spots if he plays well enough. With Ryan Wendell on the PUP, Kline will see more reps and could come out ahead as a starter or top reserve.
DE/OLB Eric Martin: After bouncing around the Saints and Browns rosters in 2013 and 2014, Martin signed to the Pats Practice Squad last year. At 6’2, 250, he ran a 4.53 at his Nebraska Pro Day in 2013. He has raised some eye brows with his pass rush. He could make noise as Dane Fletcher and Chris White are on the PUP as a good special teamer/backup pass rusher. Keep an eye out on how he does with the pads on.
S Tavon Wilson and Jordan Richards: Although the attention has been on the corner back (and rightfully so), the attention needs to be on how well these two have played as of late. Both are getting a lot of playing time and surprisingly enough, Wilson has been a better player. Will he remove his borderline bust status as a 2nd rounder? We’ll see, but it’s an encouraging sign. With that being said, hearing good things about Richards makes it interesting to see if guys like Duron Harmon and Nate Ebner get put on notice with their play.
After getting the day off on Monday, Bill Belichick had his team back out on the practice field on Tuesday afternoon. A later start at roughly 1:30 p.m, the crowd from the weekend diminished drastically, leaving fans in attendance with a much better view point for the practice. The practice schedule and routine was the same as the first four days, things are just slowly picking up as the days move on. Here are my three observations and evaluations from Tuesday’s session.
Injuries Pile Up: With players hitting mostly at full speed comes the increased risk of training camp injuries. At the end of Sunday’s practice, Julian Edelman came up limping after catching a low placed ball from Jimmy Garoppolo. Edelman was on the field in full pads to start Tuesday’s practice. However, after stretches he walked into the field house next to the practice field and never returned.
In addition, halfway through the practice during individual tackling drills between defensive backs and wide receivers, Brian Tyms was rocked by Robert McClain. It did not seem to be a cheap shot, but most players do not follow through with their tackles, except for McClain who took Tyms directly to the ground. Tyms was carted off the practice field with what looked to be an upper body injury.
Also, an injury that looked to slip under the radar at the end of practice was an alleged one to Rob Gronkowski. I first noticed when the first team offense was practicing goal line drills. Gronkowski was kneeling on the side, grabbing at his lower back. There was no sign of trainers looking at his back, but during the two-minute drills at the end of practice, Gronkowski sat out. He was walking okay at the end, so try not to panic to hard Patriots fans.
Jimmy Garoppolo Has His Best Day: Throughout the first four days of training camp, Jimmy Garoppolo was underwhelming to put it lightly. Nevertheless, on Tuesday he was pretty impressive. He started practice off slow, with his first pass being intercepted by Nate Ebner. However, his passes had some very nice touch on them, particularly in red zone situations.
His first two passes in live eleven on eleven situations were beautifully placed passes, hitting Travaris Cadet and Danny Amendola in stride in opposite corners of the end zone. His decision making still needs to speed up, but overall he is slowly progressing day by day.
Miscellaneous Notes: Malcolm Butler continues to build upon his Super Bowl heroics during training camp. During the first eleven on eleven session, Butler picked off a bullet pass from Tom Brady intended for Josh Boyce in the middle of the field. Also, he certainly does not lack in confidence as he continues to chatter back and forth with Tom Brady.
Practice for sure started off very chippy on Tuesday afternoon. It started off right away during seven on seven interior drills. Jonas Gray ran through the hole, only to be absolutely leveled by Jamie Collins from the right side. Gray got up a little ticked off and the two exchanged words for a moment.
In addition, Josh Kline was getting very scrappy as well early on, and Jordan Devey looks terrible as always. Kline was blowing back Jonathan Freeny and getting good contact on Jamie Collins. Especially on Freeny, pushing him all the way back to the sidelines. Devey looked as if he were on roller skates when Zach Moore made one move on him and blew up a run play in the back field.
Josh Boyce is also raising some eyebrows so far. I completely wrote him off from making the team, but he is seeing a lot of time with Tom Brady, and Jimmy Garoppolo especially loves targeting him. Boyce continues to burn seventh round rookie cornerback Darryl Roberts, on almost a daily basis.
The Patriots will have a light practice inside Gillette Stadium for season ticket holders, and residents of Foxborough and South Walpole on Wednesday night after the Hall of Fame induction of Willie McGinest. Stay tuned for more training camp updates on Goal Line Gazette.
With training camp rapidly approaching, Patriots fans are getting ready and anticipating the upcoming battles for roster spots that makes the month of August so exciting. This year more than in recent years, there will be an abundance of Patriots competing for jobs. With so much upcoming competition, it is time for the annual 53 man roster projection before training camp. Here is how I think the roster will look come week one against Pittsburgh.
Quarterback: Jimmy Garoppolo, Matt Flynn.
The expectations seems to be that Tom Brady will miss some game time in 2015. Whether it is four games or one game, odds are he won’t be on the field opening night. He will need to hand it over to Jimmy Garoppolo, with Matt Flynn providing solid insurance behind him.
Running Back: Brandon Bolden, Travaris Cadet, James Develin, Tyler Gaffney, Jonas Gray.
For most of the season, LeGarrette Blount will be the main running back in the Patriots offense, but in week one he will be suspended for violating the league’s drug policy. Behind him will be a plethora of running backs fighting for game time. Brandon Bolden and Jonas Gray will battle it out for touches in the, “power back” category, along with Travaris Cadet and James White fighting for the, “Pass catching back.” Tyler Gaffney is an unknown right now, he seems to have the ability to contribute in both roles. James Develin as always is the reliable fullback/tight end hyrbid. I see a rookie like Dion Lewis landing on the practice squad.
Not many surprises here. Aaron Dobson will make the roster, now that he is fully healthy he can really show his ability. Brian Tyms gets chopped here because of his lack of versatility. He can run one route and that is about it. You can’t make a living off the go route unless your name is Randy Moss. Brandon Gibson has shown that he can provide a little bit more of a spark than Tyms.
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski, Scott Chandler, AJ Derby.
I have seen Michael Hoomanawanui as a player that has been on the chopping block all offseason. I personally thought he would be gone by now. Maybe their method is to let, “Hoo-Man” play out training camp and try to prove himself. If he shows anything, theres a small possibility they get a draft pick for him. If not he gets cut. A 1.5 million dollar cap hit is too much for a run blocker. James Develin can take over that role. Jake Bequette will be interesting to say the least, however I don’t believe he will impress enough.
Tackle: Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon, Sebastian Vollmer, Cameron Fleming.
With Tom Brady’s ascending age, the Patriots ability to protect him will be pivotal in their success. With two top tier tackles they shouldn’t have a problem. In addition, Cameron Fleming is a rising talent on the offensive line. I’m not sure why Cannon is still on the team, but they love him in Foxborough. He is their utility guy that can do it all.
Guard: Ryan Wendell, Tre Jackson, Josh Kline.
With Dan Connolly gone the Patriots need insurance at the guard position, something they didn’t have when they let go of Logan Mankins last year. That was almost a detriment to the season. There will be a battle back up between Josh Kline and Jordan Devey. Neither have impressed too much over their careers, but Kline has shown at times he can step up, and Devey never has.
Center: Bryan Stork, Shaq Mason.
Bryan Stork has his starting job locked up, now he has a little back up behind him with rookie Shaq Mason. He plays both guard and center coming out of Georgia Tech. It is hard to think that Ryan Wendell will go back to center at any point given the limited amount of talent at the position.
There will be a lot of rotation at defensive end this season with the addition of Jabaal Sheard. It will finally give a player such as Rob Ninkovich the chance to catch his breath as oppose to playing about ninety percent of the snaps. Also, rookies Flowers and Grissom should be intriguing prospects. Grissom in particular given his athleticism he reminds you of Jamie Collins in a way. Look for Zach Moore to land on the practice squad.
Defensive Tackle: Malcom Brown, Alan Branch, Sealver Siliga, Dominique Easley, Chris Jones
Another spot were there will be plenty of competition because of the loss of Vince Wilfork. Furthermore, reports have been that Zach Moore has put on significant size so look for him to receive reps at defensive tackle during camp. Joe Vellano gets cut for the second year in a row.
Linebacker: Jerod Mayo, Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Dane Fletcher, Matthew Wells.
Many believe that Dont’a Hightower will begin the season on the physically unable to perform list. However, many have reported that he is ahead of schedule in his rehab leading me to believe that he will be ready. Also, keep an eye on the health of Jerod Mayo as he recovers from a torn patellar. If he doesn’t prove to be healthy look for Belichick to pick up a veteran that was cut from another team.
It is simple, with such as lack of talent the Patriots need all the bodies they have at cornerback. Expect all five of these players to see the field often early on as rotation will be key in figuring out which player belong on the field. Much like the offensive line at the start of last season.
Safety: Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Patrick Chung, Jordan Richards, Nate Ebner.
It was very clear on May 1st when the Patriots drafted Jordan Richards, they were drafting Tavon Wilson’s replacement. He is a guy that struggles in pass coverage, can play the run, and is great on special teams. Exactly like Wilson. Expect Devin McCourty to be on the field about one-hundred percent of the defensive snaps, and for Chung and Harmon to rotate depending on the situation.
Special Teams: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Matthew Slater, Chris White.
After Stephen Gostkowski just inked his new contract with the Patriots should once again be in the tops of the league in special teams. Joe Cardona was the top rated long snapper in this year’s draft and his snaps have been clocked at over 40 miles per hour. That is certainly worth noting.
Over the past fifteen seasons in New England, Patriots fans have gone into each season knowing that their team has a reliable pass-catching running back on the roster. Whether it was Kevin Faulk, Danny Woodhead, or Shane Vereen,Tom Brady has always had the luxury of having a solid running back that he can dump the ball off to. Heading into the 2015 season, Tom Brady and the Patriots do not have the same luxury with Shane Vereen signing with the New York Giants this past offseason.
There is a multitude of running backs on the roster that seem to have the ability to take over the role, but they are all for the most part unproven. Two players that will be competing for the role are veteran free agent Travaris Cadet, and second-year back James White.
Travaris Cadet has spent his first three seasons in the league with the New Orleans Saints, catching passes from Drew Brees. Cadet was basically irrelevant in his first two seasons, catching only seven passes, for 49 yards, and one touchdown. In year three Cadet took a miniature jump onto the NFL scene finishing with 38 receptions, for 296 yards, and one touchdown.
Much like Shane Vereen, Travaris Cadet spends a lot of his time playing in the slot. At 6-1, 210 pounds Cadet is built like a running back-slot receiver hybrid. Also, with his size and physicality Cadet is able to pass protect for the quarterback, which is huge when playing for Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick. Cadet just doesn’t seem to have that burst potential. His spot on the roster is fairly safe, barring injury, and his ability to digest the playbook will determine whether or not he will earn a starting job.
James White was one of the more interesting players in training camp last season. Throughout July and August, White received first team reps and performed well during practice. However, when the bright lights came on he couldn’t deliver.
White was mediocre at best in preseason games. He never flashed in the passing game like he was labeled, and in the run game there was not much physicality or burst. His lack of production in the summer lead to his limited game action during the regular season.
Going into training camp this year, White needs to show that he can really be a playmaker like Shane Vereen was at times during his tenure. He needs to play in the slot and also pass block, two essentials for a running back in the Patriots offense as fans have learned over the past couple of seasons.
In the end, James White will most likely come out on top in this training camp battle, given his familiarity with the Patriots system. Nevertheless, in time Travaris Cadet will become more acclimated to the offense and take over the position.
In addition, a change will be necessary due to that fact that at 5-10, 194 pounds James White will easily get exposed pass blocking and will get knocked down easily when running the ball. Cadet is better equipped physically to take over the job. The only way James White remains a starter is if he really flashes and becomes an essential piece to the offense. It is tough to imagine that happening in 2015.
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