The Patriots did not shock the NFL landscape on cutdown day like they did last year when they released quarterback Cam Newton. But on their way from 80-to-53 players, some notable moves were made.
While more moves will come before the September 11 season opener against Miami, let’s analyze the team’s initial 53-man roster.
New England has seen a handful of respected veterans depart over the past year to two, and this year’s 53-man roster has set up a youth movement. In total, the Patriots initial 53-man roster features 10 rookies. That list includes Cole Strange (first round), Tyquan Thornton (second), cornerback/returner Marcus Jones (third), cornerback Jack Jones (fourth), quarterback Bailey Zappe (fourth), running back Pierre Strong Jr. (fourth), guard Chasen Hines (sixth), and defensive lineman Sam Roberts (sixth).
A handful of those players are expected to contribute immediately for New England. Strange will be a day one starter at left guard, while Marcus Jones will see time as both a slot corner and returner. Tyquan Thornton will also have a role when he returns from his collarbone injury.
That list also doesn't include the pair of UDFA’s the Patriots kept - which keep their streak alive. Both Brenden Schooler and DaMarcus Mitchell should be day one contributors on special teams.
The Patriots didn't drop any bombshells like Newton last year, frankly because there were not any to deploy. While they weren't major moves, waiving Justin Bethel and releasing Lil’Jordan Humphrey came as a bit of a surprise. Bethel has been a staple on special teams across the field from Matthew Slater throughout his tenure, while Humphrey has been the star of the preseason.
UDFA LaBryan Ray could also fall in the category, as the former Alabama product stood out on the practice fields. We’ll see if any of the three make their way back to New England as player movement continues the next few days.
Outside skill position help
With the release of Humphrey and Devin Asiasi, as well as Kristian Wilkerson landing on the injured reserve, the Patriots are left with just six healthy pass catchers entering the regular season. That number seems low to enter Week 1 with and it’s hard to believe they will matchup against Miami with a fifth wide receiver that has yet to enter the building.
The hope may be Humphrey makes his way back to the practice squad, but that is no sure bet after his strong preseason. That means New England may be forced to look elsewhere for help. Wide receiver Dazz Newsome, who the Patriots held for a workout last week, is an intriguing name. Newly released receivers Cornell Powell and Bo Melton could also be on the team’s radar, as they seemed like strong draft fits the past two years.
The availability of running back Ty Montgomery will also be telling. New England only kept four running backs on the original roster, perhaps indicating the ankle injury he suffered against Las Vegas is not as serious as it appeared. Montgomery could help at wide receiver, where he lined up at times throughout camp.
If Montgomery needs more time and potentially lands on the injured reserve, the Patriots could also look elsewhere for running back help. Veterans like Marlon Mack, Duke Johnson, Phillip Lindsay all have pass catching experience and hit the market on Tuesday. Sony Michel is also available.
Tight end shortage
Along the same lines as above, the Patriots active roster features just two tight ends in Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry. It seems risky as New England plans to utilize two tight-end sets more in 2022 and both Smith and Henry have injury plagued pasts. The belief here is that the Patriots will look to get one of (or potentially both) Devin Asiasi or Matt Sokol to the practice squad. From there, they have the ability to elevate each player three times throughout the regular season. If Smith or Henry suffer a severe injury, New England could then outright sign one of the tight ends to the active roster.
Interior line depth
The Patriots covered their tackle depth by keeping both Yodney Cajuste and Justin Herron on the roster, but left rookie Chasen Hines as the lone piece along the second unit of the interior offensive line. Hines earned a spot, especially with his strong, powerful play in the run game, but New England waived some talented young options in the process.
That group includes the likes of Kody Russey, Arlington Hambright, Will Sherman, as well as veteran James Ferentz. The Patriots will likely try to get as many of them back on the practice squad as possible - guard Bill Murray being another option - but it would be no surprise if a few got plucked away elsewhere in the process.
The aforementioned youth movement is clear at the cornerback position. With veterans like Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, and Jason McCourty departing the past few seasons, New England will rely on youth in the secondary. With rookie Marcus and Jack Jones, as well as the 23-year Shaun Wade, New England’s average age in the cornerback room is 25 years old. Jonathan Jones, who turns 29-years old in September, is the oldest member of the group.