Patriots Bubble Watch: First Impressions

A handshake from Tommy B is usually a good indicator. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

There are a lot of preseason buzzwords you hear all the time across the NFL, both in training camp and in the actual games themselves. Words like reps. Longshots. Locks. Tebow. Scuffles. Looks. Timing. Tebow. Battles. Depth Chart. Stock Watch.Tebow.

But none of those buzzwords, in my opinion, carries more weight and garners more discussion than that ever-elusive term "bubble." After all, everyone loves bubbles; they're light, airy, play cool tricks with the light, and serve as a great name for a chimp should you be so lucky as to own one.

If you're a player in the NFL, though, "bubble" is the last thing you want to hear associated with your name. During a time when the competition is fierce and every play counts, being on the roster bubble means that you are by no means a guarantee to make the team and one false move could translate into a note on your locker saying "see Coach. Bring your playbook."

On the flip side, of course, if you're just your average blue collar slob fan like me, the word "bubble" is doubly awesome. Not only does the term remind me of some of life's simple pleasures - Jacuzzis, gum, comic strip conversations, beer - but it also provides me with a pantload of discussion points and reasons to focus on the Patriots rather than work, family, my girlfriend, or my personal hygiene. As the preseason marches on, I'm going to be taking a look at a number of players who are currently camped out right in that barren wasteland that separates Title Town from Cutsville, and breaking down what they will need to do in order to secure themselves a place on the final roster.

If I had had more time last week, I would have posted an article before Thursday's game against the Saints highlighting five players in particular I was going to be paying close attention to, and how I thought their in-game performance reflected on their chances of making the team. But, like my parents always say to me on my birthday, the mistake has already been made, so there's no point in celebrating it. So today will be a bit of a retroactive breakown, with the full before and after stuff officially kicking off before the Pats play the Eagles on the 20th. For now though, follow the jump for 5 bubble players that I thought stood out on Thursday -for both the right and the wrong reasons.

Britt Davis. While Davis made what was actually a pretty great back shoulder catch in the end zone off of an absolute bullet of a Brian Hoyer pass for the only touchdown of the game, the 4th year receiver had an otherwise lackluster day. He had trouble hauling in most of the balls that came his way, including a well placed pass from Ryan Mallett that bounced right off of his chest. Davis has youth and size on his side (at 26 and 6'3", he is one of the youngest and the tallest receiver on the team), but he was a long shot to make the roster to begin with, and I didn't see anything on Thursday to help his case. His shoulder injury will be something to monitor, but he's really going to need to step it up if he wants to even make this squad.

Trevor Scott. As I spent Thursday's game trying to zero in on what player had what number, I was ecstatic to think that Jake Bequette was wearing #99, as he had multiple pressures and a sack on the day. Then I remembered that Bequette was wearing 66, and Scott was in fact 99, which made me even more excited. Every year, some "washed up" veteran comes to the Patriots and rediscovers his groove, and Scott may be that man on the defensive side of the ball this year. Granted, he was only on the field for two snaps in the first half, and much of his playing time came against the bottom of the Saints roster, but I still liked what I saw. Expect Scott to be a recurring member on these bubble watch pieces, as I'll need to see more before I can be truly comfortable predicting his place on the team. He's off to a great start, though.

Sterling Moore. Moore is one of the names that was thrown around in regards to who has been struggling at training camp, and those struggles translated onto the field on Thursday night. Not only was Moore responsible for the biggest gain of the night for both teams, a 46 yard Pass Interference call, but he was the one in coverage on a 3rd and 22 Saints conversion. He just didn't have a very good night out there, which leads to the beginnings of some questions as to whether or not he has been able to make that step up from perennial practice squad member to full-time contributor. I'd still say Moore was poised to survive the final round of cuts, but if his play doesn't improve over the next few weeks, he could get beaten out by Will Smith or Alfonzo Dennard.

Jermaine Cunningham. Cunningham saw a lot of time last night, and he took full advantage of his opportunities. He wasnt able to register a sack, but he was in the backfield quite a bit and I saw a lot of the number 96 around the ball at all times. The coaching staff is clearly high on him, and I'd say this first game was a big step in the right direction. I don't know if Cunningham will ever be a huge impact player for this team, but I'm hopeful he can live up to his second round status as a reliable part of the defensive rotation. He's still by no means a lock, but you have to be optimistic based on the offseason he's having so far. The key is whether or not he continues the upward trajectory.

Donald Thomas. I initially had Thomas on my list of players who ultimately didn't make the final roster. However, with the current thin state of the offensive line, Thomas's odds have definitely gone up. Furthermore, he was one of the most solid linemen out there on Thursday, stepping in nicely at guard and executing all of his blocking assignments well. I'm going to go back and watch the replay to see how many of the team's big runs came off of a Thomas block, but I'll bet he was right in the mix on a fair number of them. In what was a rough night overall for the line (one that is going to get more flak than it deserves, in my opinion), Thomas was a bright spot and definitely made his case for why he deserves to make the team.

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