Yesterday was a crazy day around the NFL, as all rosters had to be trimmed down to 75 players by 4:00 p.m. on Monday. The Patriots arguably made the biggest cut of the day league wide, as they decided to release wide receiver Jabar Gaffney. This sort of move is shattering to most likely everyone's final 53-man roster, including my own.
Gaffney, along with Donte Stallworth and Gerard Warren were among the notable players who the Patriots let go of on Monday. A few bubbles players such as Spencer Larsen and Josh Barrett were placed on injured reserve, thus ending their 2012 campaign.
With all of the roster transactions that transpired on Monday, it has caused me to do some more rethinking about my own 53-man roster prediction. After much debate and deep thought, I have compiled a revised prediction following yesterday's moves.
Analysis: Even though Bill Belichick showed us yesterday that he's not afraid to get rid of players he thought as roster locks, I don't foresee any change at the quarterback position. Hoyer could get the boot if anyone does, but he's likely to stick around for Brady and Mallett insurance. Mallett continues to be up and down, but has been more up as of late. Expect the QB group to stay in tact.
Analysis: I'm sticking to my guns with the group that I originally picked. I think that Gaffney's release opens the door for a guy like Woodhead or Bolden to make it. Interesting to read that some people were questioning Woodhead as well as Vereen's status on the team. Woodhead is still that "veteran leader" of the group and a viable third down back. Bolden, as many predicted, seems to be in good position to take a roster slot. The speedy Demps' deal seems to lock him in on the roster as well as a return man. Good group of backs, if you ask me.
Fullback (0): N/A
Analysis: It's important to note that both Tony Fiammetta and Spencer Larsen are both technically on the team (Fiammetta on personal leave, Larsen on IR). If both were cut, I'd like to think that Eric Kettani would have beat them both out. But that's simply not the case. I see the Patriots putting him on the practice squad--thus conceding thoughts of a fullback on the final roster. At least for now.
Analysis: This is the group that took the biggest hit on Monday, with Gaffney and Stallworth being let go. Many (including myself) envisioned the Patriots going with six guys with Gaffney in and Stallworth on the outs. But now that both are gone, it seems like they will go with solid number of five. Branch has obviously earned his spot after yesterday's actions. No reason to think that Jeremy Ebert or Jesse Holley make the final roster. They're being kept around for the Giants game, and will be dealt with later. Edelman, like Branch, has done well throughout camp and has proven himself as an emergency receiver/primary return man for the team. Newly claimed Kerry Taylor seems destined for a cut or a practice squad assignment.
Analysis: The main question I find with this group is whether or not Visanthe Shiancoe makes the roster or not. Gronk, Herndo and Fells are obvious locks, but can the Patriots find a role for Shaincoe in their offense. I simply cannot find a role for him with Fells already present. Despite the hefty signing bonus, Shiancoe was signed as depth to begin with. He'll likely join Tyler Urban as cuts made at the position.
Analysis: No real surprise here with these three. Solder and Vollmer will project as starters while Cannon will serve as a backup to both. Guys like Darrion Weems, Kyle Hix, Matt Kopa and Dennis Waldron just haven't shown me enough to warrant them roster spots. As long as Vollmer is healthy (which is a big "IF"), these three seem like safe bet at tackle. Oh how I miss you, Matt Light.
Analysis: Yep, I'm one of those people that have no doubt Brian Waters will be suiting up in 2012 for the Patriots. The fact that the Patriots don't have "anything new" on him and that no announcement was made on Monday seems like Waters will return in 2012. If he was going to retire or choose another team, this would have already been done. Donald Thomas makes it if Waters does decide to leave. As for the others, I like Koppen sneaking in. Like Waters, Koppen would have already been cut if he was going to be. I also like Wendell, who's had a strong camp, getting in as added depth to an aging guard combo. McDonald makes the roster as a super backup, with capability at all five positions on the line. Guys like Jeremiah Warren and Derek Dennis were long shots from the start.
MORE PREDICTIONS AFTER THE JUMP!
Analysis: For all that's being said about a Scott vs. Cunningham competition, I see no reason for Belichick not to take both guys. Both are "elephant" guys who can project as 4-3 DEs or 3-4 OLBs. Both have had strong camps, and I think both will play parts in what I believe will be a much improved defensive unit. Like many others, I have bought into rookie Justin Francis and his versatility. However, I have him just missing the cut in favor of Cunningham/Scott. Five to me is a solid number when it comes to Patriots defensive ends.
Analysis: The big news from this group was obviously the release of Gerard Warren. I thought of Wilfork and Love as locks, while Deaderick and Brace as questions. With Belichick liking depth on his defensive line, I think they will take the impressive Brace as insurance for Wilfork and Deaderick for depth as a 3-4 DE. The two undrafted Marcuses miss the cut, and could be practice squad bound.
Analysis: I viewed Mayo, Spikes, Hightower, Carpenter and Tarpinian as certainties on the roster. Although he primarily plays on the outside, Niko Koutouvides makes it with Dane Fletcher going down for the year. He's been in on almost all of the first team Patriots' special teams drills, and projects decent as a depth linebacker. The reason I leave guys with inside capability like Tracy White off the roster is because of both Mayo and Hightower's capability to play inside. Carpenter and Tarpinian's special teams ability also plays into the cutting of the primary special teammers.
Analysis: The only change from my original with this group is I've swapped Cole and Alfonzo Dennard. Cole has been fully healthy throughout camp and has played well on special teams and as a cornerback. Dennard, meanwhile has battled with injuries and countless off the field drama. He seems destined for a practice squad appointment--this way he can rehabilitate both mentally and physically and get himself prepared for next season. Guys like Malcolm Williams and Derrick Martin seem destined to join Ross Ventrone on the way out.
Analysis: After strong showings in the preseason and Will Allen and Josh Barrett on IR, I believe James Ihedigbo and Nate Ebner find themselves with roster spots come Week One. Ihedigbo played well with the Patriots last season, and seems to have done enough to earn a spot. Not everyone is as sold on Ebner as I am, but he's been an absolute beast on Special Teams. It'll be interesting to see how a rugby player translates into the NFL. He's a guy to really keep an eye out for. It seems apparent that we will finally be spared of the dismal Sergio Brown, finally.
Analysis: No surprise here. Although, keep an eye on Aiken. He hasn't been doing very well so far, and former long snapper Lonnie Paxton is out there for the taking.
NOTE: I am aware of the given circumstances that Jabar Gaffney could very likely come back to the team, either after Wednesday's game or when healthy. The more I looked into it, the more likely I saw this as a possibility. We are dealing with the smartest man in football here.