With the 75-man roster cutdowns in the books, we can turn our focus to those that made the team and what it means for their future with the New England Patriots. There are a handful of players that should be thrilled they’ve made it this far because their spots on the roster were not a certainty when they were signed- and now they’re a step closer to realizing their dreams.
I’ve asked our staff to name a player (or two) that was a big winner during cut downs. I also posed the question to Twitter so see how people responded. So without further ado:
Who do you think was a big winner on the Patriots after the 75-man roster cuts?— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) August 31, 2016
Michael McDermott: LBs Kamu Grugier-Hill and Elandon Roberts
“Biggest winners from cutdowns are the two 6th round linebackers KGH and Elandon Roberts. Strong games from both convinced the coaching staff that Ramon Humber was expendable. I listed KGH as a roster lock due to his unique skill set and possibly Moneybacker fit, although Roberts turned some heads last Friday.”
There was some love for the linebackers that made it this far, and for good reason. This is possibly the deepest the Patriots have been at linebacker in a real long time, so the young guys Kamu Grugier-Hill and Elandon Roberts have done a nice job standing out and earning their time on the field.
KGH looks to be a core special teams player with passing down upside, while Roberts should also contribute on special teams and help out against the run. Combine the two and you have a Jamie Collins-type linebacker, but we can only dream of a second Collins.
I think KGH and Roberts are dueling for the same roster spot and I wouldn’t be surprised if Roberts wound up on the practice squad.
Matthew Rewinski: OG Ted Karras
“This is kind of cheating, but with the Patriots putting Sebastian Vollmer on IR, Tre Jackson on reserve/PUP, and releasing Keavon Milton (OT), combined with the release of OT Kyler Kerbyson a couple weeks ago, the big winner is OG Ted Karras, who made the 75-man roster as a sixth-round pick. It's obviously a bummer that Vollmer and Jackson are already sidelined, but with the competition at interior offensive line being so stacked, Karras has to appreciate at least having a fighting chance at a final roster spot.”
@PP_Rich_Hill Halappio and Barker, With all the injuries at guard I'm sure that's the only reason they made it— Justin H (@HoughtonJustin) August 31, 2016
I agree with Justin that the Patriots have kept some of these depth guards because of all the injuries. The only way Jon Halapio, Chris Barker, and Ted Karras make the team is if the injuries to Jonathan Cooper and Shaq Mason are expected to keep them off the field beyond the first couple of weeks of the regular season.
Karras looked overpowered against the Panthers first team defense, while Barker definitely held his own. I wouldn’t be surprised if Barker made the team and Karras wound up on the practice squad.
Bernd Buchmasser: WR Danny Amendola
“Sebastian Vollmer, Dion Lewis and Tre' Jackson were all moved from the active/PUP list to reserve/PUP, which means that they will surely miss at least the first six weeks of the season. Seeing wideout Danny Amendola remain on the active/PUP list therefore makes him a winner: it shows that he is recovering well from injuries to his knee and ankle.”
@PP_Rich_Hill The bubble WRs. Increases chance NE keeps at least 2 of them on the PS.— Matt Monitto (@TeamCrazyMatt) August 31, 2016
@PP_Rich_Hill A.J.Derby. well deserved but with additions of Bennet And Harbor wasn't a given at all— PATRIOT-REIGN (@LilGoosy) August 31, 2016
Bernd highlights Amendola’s current availability as a big win because there’s still a chance he could return for the start of the regular season. The Patriots don’t have to make an ultimate decision with the slot receiver until 4 PM EST on Saturday, September 3rd, but he could have gone the way of Dion Lewis, Sebastian Vollmer, and Tre Jackson.
I lump these Twitter responses in a similar category as Amendola because I believe they’re all linked. Keshawn Martin, DeAndre Carter, Aaron Dobson, AJ Derby, and all the depth receivers on the roster are still floating around because the Patriots are unsure when the starters will return. They are big winners in my book because they’ll get another week to put practices and plays on tape for the coaching staff to evaluate.
SlotMachinePlayer: DT Vincent Valentine
“I'd go with Big Vince Valentine. Ok, face it; I've missed having a Big Vince! I thought he might be a PS player at best this year due to his raw talent, but with the Pot Roast out of the oven, I'd say he's a lock for the 53 man roster. He'll likely be active on game day - especially against teams that run early and often.”
@PP_Rich_Hill Anthony Johnson for outlasting Pot Roast and his guaranteed money.— Stem Christie (@jrock7979) August 31, 2016
@PP_Rich_Hill also Kuhn. We typically carry four DTs so have to think he’s inside track for the last spot now with Pot Roast gone.— PatsPlayers.com (@patsplayers) August 31, 2016
The Patriots will likely keep four true defensive tackles and maybe one sub rushing defensive tackle, so the competition is really heating up. Malcom Brown and Alan Branch look like the starters, while Vincent Valentine should be able to contribute on rushing downs.
Beyond those three, Markus Kuhn has made the most of his opportunities during Branch’s suspension and has elevated himself into the discussion for #3 or #4 defensive tackle in the rotation. His ability to play both defensive tackle roles (space eater and penetrator) give the Patriots a lot of flexibility when he’s aligned next to a similarly versatile player in Brown.
Anthony Johnson has really emerged as a quality pass rushing defensive tackle who has made himself known this preseason. He could very well slide into Dominique Easley’s role on passing downs as a specialist. He’ll have one more shot against the Giants to prove he deserves a roster spot.
Rich Hill: RB D.J. Foster
“I think a big winner has to be running back D.J. Foster. The team has stuck with him through the offseason, even though he’s been sidelined with an injury, and he rewarded them with a solid performance against the Panthers where he was clearly better than the Carolina back-ups. He’ll get a chance to face the Giants and prove he deserves a roster spot.”
I don’t know if Foster will win a spot, but he and Tyler Gaffney are both vying for a spot in the running back rotation. Foster will have his hands full and he’ll have to prove that he can run between the tackles if he’s going to make the team.
I also like Matt Koegler’s mention of cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc, who has established himself as the frontrunner for the final cornerback slot, ahead of Darryl Roberts and Jonathan Jones.
Oh, and shame on every single person, myself included, for not mentioning edge defender Trey Flowers. I only remembered as I was finding a header image for this article. I think it speaks to our expectations for Flowers that he’s been the most dominant defender on the Patriots and we don’t even consider him a winner.
Who are your winners from the 75-man roster cut downs?