Phil did his first roster projection of training camp over the weekend. ('Preciate ya, Phil!). When I got to the linebackers, I noticed Christian Sam wasn't on the final 53. Now, I trust my guy but I gotta be his extra set of eyes, too, his safety net.
So I texted, "No Christian Sam, right?"
The phrasing showed I didn't doubt him, just confirming. Important.
Phil said I got it right. No Christian Sam.
There were a few other eye-openers on the outside looking in with this projection (and it's a "projection" from now on, not a "prediction for the end of camp" . . . stuff changes) among them, Brandon Bolden, Vincent Valentine, Geneo Grissom, Cole Crosston, Ryan Lewis, Eric Decker and Eddie Pleasant.
Personally, I think Phil should do a slide of the "Last Seven Out" but he probably thinks I should do my own slide show if I have such great ideas.
Anyway, back to Sam. The kid is a fifth-round linebacker from Arizona State who's landed with a team that needs linebackers. He's 6-foot-2, 240 pounds and, while he's not a freak in terms of timed speed (4.75 40-yard dash) he did come billed as a possible three-down linebacker with coverage skills. The Patriots need that. Badly. They don't do well covering at the linebacker level unless it's Patrick Chung on a tight end.
But despite that purported skill, Sam being close to the bubble shows just how competitive the linebacker position is going to be.
Which brings us now to the reason for this post -- highlighting the camp battle between Sam and The Bubble. As Phil sees it, Nicholas Grigsby, Marquis Flowers and Brandon King are core special teamers who have an inside track because of that. Rookie Ja'Whaun Bentley, who had an impressive night in the middle of the defense in the preseason opener, is also in a good spot. Dont'a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy are locks. Elandon Roberts less so, but still on. If he's going to remain a Patriot, Sam is going to have to boot one of those core special teamers or Roberts. Or, if he gets cut, maybe he'll go unclaimed and be signed back to the practice squad. We'll be watching Sam closely this week to see if he's able to make some progress against the Eagles in game two of the preseason.
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