When it comes to the business of the New England Patriots, football fans and media, alike, have long professed the notion of always ‘expecting the unexpected’ in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Perhaps there is no greater time of year to test that sentiment than the time period just before the dawn of the NFL regular season. One might say that it is the calm before the storm.
That ‘storm’ is set to impact the team on Saturday, September 1. On that date, the Patriots (along with 31 other NFL teams) will trim their rosters to the opening day-required number of 53. While no one expects names such as Brady and Gronkowski to be on the roster bubble, there are usually a number of players that end up as surprising cuts and retentions.
In anticipation of Patriots ‘cut down’ day, members of the Full Press Patriots Staff sat down to reveal which player they believed would be a surprising cut and which might be a surprising retention.
Hal Bent, Staff Writer, Full Press Patriots:
Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots are usually good for one surprise cut (or trade) and an unknown player making the roster. The Patriots routinely find an undrafted free agent who earns a coveted spot on the 53-man roster. So far in 2018, undrafted free agent J.C. Jackson has caught my eye as a surprise player to make the roster. Although deep at cornerback, J.C. Jackson–via Maryland (from Florida previously) dropped not due to talent but instead off-field issues.
With Jackson on the roster, that means the end of the line in New England for 2016 second round draft pick and slot cornerback Cyrus Jones. Jones has been unable to stay on the field the past two seasons and the Alabama alum has been passed by Jonathan Jones (of Auburn, no less). With Jonathan Jones locked in at slot cornerback with 2018 second round draft pick Duke Dawson for depth, there is no room for Cyrus Jones. Bonus surprises include Will Tye at tight end beating out veteran Dwayne Allen, Ja’Whaun Bentley and Christian Sam keeping Elandon Roberts from making the team, and Ralph Webb with a huge performance in preseason game four against the Giants beating out Mike Gillislee and Brandon Bolden for the last roster spot at running back.
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Luke O’Brien; Staff Writer, Full Press Patriots:
When Jason McCourty joined from the Browns, hopes were high that he could form add his veteran experience to a relatively youthful Cornerback depth chart. Since coming over from Cleveland the signs have not been all that positive. During OTA’s he was seen on the sideline, apparently not injured but also not taking any reps. Fans and journalists were left puzzled as McCourty insisted he was healthy. After sitting out the first preseason game against the Redskins, he failed to record a statistic against the Eagles. For the latest game against the Panthers, he played some time at Safety. What this all boils down to is that the coaching staff really aren’t giving him a vote of confidence so far and with his $3m cap hit, he really he needs to be making more of an impact if he has any hope of making the team.
This one is slightly tongue-in-cheek, but I will say, Jordan Richards. Yes, he was a part of the roster for the last few years, but many feel this will be the year that Richards is finally cut loose. The inconvenient truth is – he won’t. He has a knowledge of the system, is by all accounts a “Belichick kind of guy”, a four down player. All the clichés. What he isn’t is a good player. The reason he will make the team is that there is a distinct lack of competition for the fourth Safety spot. What this points to is the coaching staff having a level of comfort in Richards to fill-in when required. As he is entering the final year of his rookie deal, he is also relatively cheap at $1.2m. I do believe they will move on from Richards, but just not this season.
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David Albiani; Staff Writer, Full Press Patriots:
Unlike in past years, the Patriots roster looks pretty set, which seems odd to say. As far as surprises to make the team though, one could include Will Tye or Trent Harris, but I’m going to say Cyrus Jones makes it. He has looked much better returning punts and I don’t think Belichick wants to give up on the former second-rounder quite yet.
On the other side of the coin, Jason McCourty seems like the obvious choice for the surprise cut so I’ll go a different route with Brandon Bolden. I think they do something similar to last year and cut Bolden to keep seven corners but then bring him back in a couple weeks. There’s a tiny chance Roberts could be it, but he has flashed this preseason.
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Chris Morgan; Staff Writer, Full Press Patriots:
This player could honestly be used for both categories, but I’m going to go with Jordan Richards. I know what you’re thinking, “Richards is awful, why would it be surprising if the Patriots finally release him?” Don’t forget though, Richards’ value to the team has come from his special teams’ ability, not his talent as a safety. Given that Bill Belichick absolutely LOVES his special team guys, keeping Richards around makes sense. However, having just spent another second-round draft pick on a defensive back, this time in Duke Dawson, perhaps this is the year Richards’ inability to be an effective defender catches up to him.
Wide Receiver Riley McCarron is my choice for retention. Had you asked me just a couple of weeks ago if McCarron could make the 53-man roster, I would’ve told you that you are crazy. Now, however, he actually stands a chance of earning a spot on this team. The Patriots receiver group is extremely thin at the moment, and that will only get worse with Julian Edelman set to serve his four-game suspension to begin the regular season. McCarron could step into the slot role during that time, even ahead of Miami product Braxton Berrios, who hasn’t quite been able to get a grasp on his play just yet.
Follow Chris on Twitter @CapnPrime76
Introduction was written by, Mike D’Abate, Managing Editor, Full Press Patriots.