Last week, we got into whether the NFL’s new roster cut policy, which takes away the whole 75-man roster cut in the third week of the preseason, could help the Patriots unload some of their depth for players at thin positions or (since Danny Ainge just played Monopoly with the Cavs on Tuesday night) “trade assets”.
We’re nowhere near that yet, that we know of, anyway, but Bill Belichick did throw out a benefit that the Patriots are seeing from the rule change already on Tuesday - even if it’s obvious enough that it sounds like one of his classic 1,000 riffs on “We’re doing what’s best for the team”.
“I think in the last preseason game, in the past, when you made that cut to 75, some of those 15 players could have had an opportunity to play in the game, just because after five weeks of training camp, you’ve got guys that are banged up, and you’ve got guys that you still want to watch play,” Belichick said. “Having a few extra players to give them that opportunity actually works. Maybe you don’t need all of them, but sometimes you could certainly use a few more than 75. I know that seems like a lot, but everybody’s not playing the whole game. It’s not like a normal regular season game.
“Once you take the first group out, you take out, you call it, 40 guys. Now you’re down to, you’re trying to play the game with let’s call it 30 once you get rid of the specialists, quarterbacks and all that. It’s not really that many guys to play all the kicking-game plays and offense, defense, so you wind up limiting your system quite a bit. Maybe you only use nickel defense, not dime. Maybe you only use two-receiver sets if you don’t have depth at receiver. You only use one tight end if you don’t have depth at tight end, whatever it is.
“I think it kinda compresses that last preseason game. I think this having more people available will allow team to play more like they played the first three. So, we’ll see how it goes. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. It keeps those players, it gives them another week to make an impression.”
Aside from the last part of that being arguably the most important to the 2017 Patriots - “It gives them another week to make an impression” - don’t let that second part of Belichick’s answer slip by you either. His point there affects even teams with depth at every position - since starters usually more or less sit the preseason out, unless you’re the Giants and like rolling the dice with Odell freaking Beckham Jr, that automatically plays backups and backup-backups for most preseason games, which, at some point, means you’re going to run out of dudes at certain positions. And maybe those are spots you want to experiment with, but you can’t, because you can’t risk an injury to a receiver that might be 3rd or 4th on your depth chart, or you can’t have a corner play special teams snaps, or play certain personnel packages (like the dime defense Belichick noted) because, well, same thing, it’s not worth the risk.
New England’s so-far-winless preseason continues with the Detroit Lions at Ford Field this Friday night.