For most NFL fans, Week 4 of the NFL preseason is often the most boring; it’s the game you are most likely to pass over if you have more pressing plans. For NFL players on the fringe of making a 53-man roster, Week 4 is the last chance for these players to prove to their coaches that they deserve a spot on the regular season roster heading into Week 1. On a talented team like the New England Patriots, this roster competition is heightened, with so few roster spots up for grabs. With that being said, let’s look at some of the players who are on the roster bubble heading into Thursday’s home matchup against the New York Giants, and have the most to prove.
Dan Skipper, OT
Skipper was likely feeling more secure about his spot on the roster before yesterday, when the Patriots traded for two offensive lineman, Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle Korey Cunningham, and Baltimore offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemenor. Now, Skipper is potentially on the outside looking in when it comes to making the roster.
Skipper has performed admirably this preseason, but his momentum has slowed in recent weeks. The towering 6’9” third-year tackle was taking first team reps in Isaiah Wynn’s absence, and has been rotating with Wynn as Wynn works his way back from his Achilles injury. His reps seem to be on a downward decline, as Wynn gets closer to full health.
Cunningham and Eluemenor both have experience at the tackle position, and both have played at left tackle, specifically, in the past. New England wouldn’t make these two trades right before cuts if they didn’t intend to keep both on the roster heading into Week 1. Both new players have more versatility than Skipper does at this point, and we all know Bill Belichick loves versatility on his roster.
Ultimately, it’s a toss-up on Skipper’s chances of sticking now. He has experience in the system, compared to Cunningham and Eluemenor, and could likely step in at either tackle position in a pinch. But has his performance been enough to keep him on the roster, despite his lack of versatility compared to the two new acquisitions? We’ll see.
Deatrich Wise Jr, DE
With New England shifting to more of a 3-4 defense this offseason, Wise finds himself in a an awkward position on this team, as a player who has solely been a 4-3 defensive end before this season. Wise is a good player, but is better playing on the line of scrimmage with his hand in the dirt. He doesn’t have the agility or speed to succeed as an off-the-line linebacker. A player like rookie defensive lineman Byron Cowart, who has played well this preseason, may make Wise expendable here.
Braxton Berrios, WR
Before this week, Berrios likely would have made it through final cuts with this team. But with Josh Gordon being reinstated, and Demaryius Thomas coming off PUP this week, the Patriots suddenly have a deeper, and more crowded receiver corps, one that likely will lead to Berrios being cut after tonight’s game against the Giants.
Berrios got off to a slow start this preseason but picked it up halfway through. But did he do enough to overcome that slow start? Julian Edelman, Gordon, and N’Keal Harry are locks to make the roster. Jakobi Meyers is a near-lock. That leaves Thomas, Dorsett, Berrios, and Gunner Olszewski competing for two spots, in all likelihood. As long as Thomas’ Achilles is healthy, he likely grabs one spot, and Dorsett has shown he has earned Brady’s trust, more so than Berrios, and has done enough this preseason to deserve a spot too.
Can the Patriots sneak Berrios through waivers to the practice squad this season? It’s not out of the question, but it’s possible some team picks up Berrios and uses him as their punt returner, and tries to develop him as a slot receiver still. Berrios has shown solid ability as a punt returner, and if he did make the Patriots’ roster, that would likely be his primary responsibility.
Gunner Olszewski, WR
Another shifty receiver on the New England roster who has done well as a punt returner in preseason. Olszewski, an undrafted free agent, will almost certainly be cut, but could find himself on the Patriots practice squad with a solid performance tonight. He has shown some intriguing traits as a receiver that could lead to New England wanting to stash and develop him on the practice squad this season. If Berrios gets claimed on waivers, look for New England to try and sign Olszewski to the practice squad.
Duke Dawson, CB
Dawson hasn’t done much to stand out this preseason. After a disappointing rookie season that was marred by injury, Dawson has a lot to play for in Preseason Week 4, to stake his claim to a spot in the crowded field of talented New England cornerbacks this season.
If the Patriots decide to keep six corners, and not seven, the sixth spot will come down to Dawson and...
Keion Crossen, CB
...Keion Crossen, who was part of the effort in the AFC Championship Game to stifle Tyreek Hill. Crossen is an athletic freak who has displayed decent coverage ability as well. He played primarily on special teams as a rookie last season, and is more valuable in that area of the roster than Dawson is. New England knows what they have in Crossen, and he has potential to get even better as a cover corner. Dawson has not done enough to beat out Crossen, in this writer’s opinion, but if they keep seven corners, Dawson and Crossen likely both make it.
Calvin Munson, LB
Munson is a solid linebacker who has looked great the last couple of weeks. He has experience in this scheme, is a good special teams player, and would fit in well as a backup linebacker on this team.
As a limited athlete, Munson has likely reached his ceiling of what he can be, and struggles in coverage sometimes due to his limited athleticism. Does the team keep him around to solidify their special teams unit? Or do they feel comfortable enough with their linebacking corps as is, and try to get Munson onto the practice squad? The guess here is Munson gets released, due to the depth and talent already at the linebacker position.
Derek Rivers, DE
Rivers was off to a solid start in what is a pivotal preseason for him, until he suffered an undisclosed injury in the second preseason game. Rivers had two sacks before getting injured, and looked stronger and quicker this season. Depending on his health status, Rivers could still make the team if he will be back soon, or he could be headed to injured reserve again, if this is a more serious injury than initially thought. It would be a crushing blow to a player who has struggled to get on the field, and stay on the field, early in his NFL career.
Obi Melifonwu, S
An impressive athlete who joined the team in the middle of last season, Melifonwu hasn’t stood out this preseason. Do the Patriots see enough in him to keep him around for another year? Melifonwu plays a lot of special teams, and would help in that area again this year, but the team may need his roster spot for another position group, unless they see enough in him to continue developing him for a second year.
Lance Kendricks, TE
Kendricks is a good pass-catcher, but a subpar blocker. The tight end position continues to be one of the few weak spots on this year’s team, and Kendricks has previous knowledge of the scheme, having played for Josh McDaniels with the Rams, but the veteran tight end hasn’t stood out thus far. He’ll have one more preseason game to prove he deserves a spot over someone like second-year tight end Ryan Izzo, who is a better run-blocker and has shown some pass-catching potential this preseason.