The New England Patriots are officially under the 53-man roster limit. The final five of the team’s 24 cuts were announced 90 minutes after the cutdown deadline came: tight end/linebacker Rashod Berry, linebacker Tashawn Bower, running back J.J. Taylor, defensive tackle Xavier Williams and wide receiver Isaiah Zuber are now off the team.
Releasing Berry, Taylor and Zuber also means that the Patriots’ undrafted rookie streak comes to an end after 16 seasons.
TE/LB Rashod Berry
After redshirting as a freshman in 2015, Berry went on to appear in a combined 48 games at Ohio State, including four as the team’s starting tight end. His statistics may not be overwhelming due to the program’s use of its tight ends in the receiving game — he finished his college career with just 17 catches for 198 yards and four touchdowns — but he did repeatedly show his upside as a blocker. In addition, he also was employed as an occasional edge linebacker after starting his career at the position.
After not hearing his name called during the draft, the Patriots picked Berry up as a rookie free agent to have him compete at both positions. He saw more action on the defensive side of the ball during training camp, but his versatility and athleticism as a whole makes him an intriguing prospect — one that could return via the practice squad.
LB Tashawn Bower
Bower started his first training camp as a Patriot on the sidelines and did not return until the sixth full-pad practice. He may have had some positive moments along the way, but they were apparently not consistent enough for him to make the 53-man roster: the 25-year-old was released today, despite his status as one of the most experienced members of New England’s linebacker corps.
Bower, after all, started his career back in 2017 when the Minnesota Vikings added him as an undrafted rookie free agent. Seeing some rotational action on defense and special teams, he appeared in seven games over his first two seasons in the league. An Achilles injury suffered in March of last year, however, changed his trajectory: he opened the 2019 season on the non-football injury list, was later released, and ultimately ended up on the Patriots’ practice squad.
RB J.J. Taylor
Running backs coach Ivan Fears compared Taylor to ex-Patriot Dion Lewis earlier in camp — and for good reason: the undrafted rookie free agent has proven himself a shifty player who is also capable of helping out as a return man. That said, the depth ahead of him at the running back position made it hard for him to make the team. He is a practice squad candidate if he can make it through waivers, though.
Taylor emerged as a potent and versatile playmaker at the University of Arizona in 2017. Over the three seasons that followed, he went on to appear in 36 games and carried the football a combined 549 times for 3,002 yards and 16 touchdowns while also registering 60 receptions for 471 yards and two more scores. Along the way, he finished first in the Pac-12 in all-purpose yards in 2018 and third in 2019.
DT Xavier Williams
Williams has appeared in 44 regular season games and four playoff contests since entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2015. He has recorded 83 combined tackles, three sacks as well as three forced fumbles while spending time with the Arizona Cardinals (2015-17) and the Kansas City Chiefs (2018-19). The 28-year-old was part of the Super Bowl winning Chiefs last year, even though he did not appear in the title game and spent time on temporary injured reserve because of a high-ankle sprain.
Adding the veteran to the defensive tackle position made sense for the Patriots in late-August considering that free agency signee Beau Allen had been sidelined throughout the early portions of training camp for undisclosed reasons. With Allen out, the Patriots’ depth chart at the position also included Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Byron Cowart, undrafted rookie Bill Murray and Williams. While the first three and Allen made the initial team, Murray and Williams were both released.
WR Isaiah Zuber
The young wide receiver arrived in New England as an undrafted free agent — one of four rookie wide receivers to be brought aboard after this year’s draft. Just like the other three, however, he will not make the team: while he had some positive moments in training camp and offers depth both as a Z-receiver and a return man, he was released today. There is a chance he comes back to the practice squad, though, in case he clears waivers.
The 23-year-old may lack experience in the NFL besides a handful of training camp practices, but he has a lot of football on his résumé form his time at Kansas State and Mississippi State: he appeared in 51 games for the two schools and was K-State’s leading receiver in n2017 and 2018. He failed to keep up his momentum following his transfer, but he does have some upside to work with.