PATS REPORTER

Perry: Analyzing the Patriots trimmed 53-man roster

PATS REPORTER

FOXBORO -- The Patriots whittled down their roster to 53 players on Saturday, giving us our first snapshot of Bill Belichick's locker room as we wade into an uncertain 2020 season.

Let's take a blow-by-blow look at the club by going through some of the most interesting numbers found within that 53.

0... As in the number of kickers the Patriots retained on their initial roster. If you're an avid fantasy football player, you get the strategy: If you can find a suitable kicker in free agency just before the season begins, why use up an early roster spot on one while you get your lineup settled? The issue with that line of thinking is the Patriots used a fifth-round pick on rookie Justin Rohrwasser, who was a less-consistent player in camp than veteran Nick Folk and could now be claimed by anyone after being waived. Belichick ended up keeping neither player. By leaving a 53-man spot free on the active roster, the Patriots may have been able to keep a player who could pop onto injured reserve on Monday. (As opposed to putting that player on IR before the 53 was set and then losing them for the season.) Once someone goes on IR -- or once a roster spot opens with a trade -- a kicker could return.

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2... As in the number of players a team can promote to the active roster from their practice squad every week. That would give teams 55 players on their active roster, with the possibility of 48 of them being active on game days. Because all players have practice-squad eligibility this year, the Patriots could bring Rohrwasser or Folk back on the p-squad and then promote one to the active roster for Week 1. As the roster gets further adjusted early in the season, that might give Belichick ultimate roster flexibility. It's important to know that a team can't do that with the same player two weeks in a row, and you can only promote a p-squad player twice in a season without signing him to an active-roster deal.  

 

3... As in three quarterbacks on the active roster: Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer. The last time the Patriots came away from cut-down day with three passers was 2014, when Jimmy Garoppolo and Ryan Mallett joined Tom Brady on the roster. But that didn't last long. Mallett was traded less than 24 hours after the cut deadline. The last time the Patriots went into their first game with three quarterbacks was 2011, nearly a decade ago. Looks like the Patriots are on track to do the same this year.

5... That's the difference between the number of weeks a player on injured reserve had to miss last year versus this year. The old rule for players on IR kept them out of practice for six weeks and games for eight weeks. With several rules changes in place due to COVID, one only keeps players on IR out for a minimum of three weeks. Therefore, if the Patriots want to put players dealing with injury on IR -- running back Damien Harris or defensive lineman Beau Allen, perhaps -- they won't have to miss half the season.

Updated Pats depth chart after 53-man roster cuts

10... The Patriots kept a whopping 10 offensive linemen on their 53-man roster. They kept eight last year. They kept seven in 2018. The number was eight in 2017. Why, then, keep a couple more this season? It may have to do with the fact that Marcus Cannon's opt-out has left some uncertainty at right tackle. After locked-in starters Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, David Andrews and Shaq Mason, there are a whopping five players who could serve as tackle depth: Jermaine Eluemunor (who looks like the Week 1 starter), Korey Cunningham, Yodny Cajuste, Justin Herron and Michael Onwenu. The Patriots selected both Herron and Onwenu in the sixth round. Herron came in looking like a versatile linemen to play inside and out, while the Patriots experimented with Onwenu at different spots in camp and appeared to hold his own. Hjalte Froholdt should be the top interior backup.

16... Another COVID-related rule change? Teams are now allowed 16 players on the practice squad, up from the previous maximum of 10. The Patriots have plenty of options to fill out theirs, including vets who in previous years wouldn't have been eligible. One possible 16-man list: running backs Lamar Miller and JJ Taylor, receivers Jeff Thomas and Devin Ross, fullback Paul Quessenberry, tight ends Jake Burt and Paul Butler, kicker Nick Folk, defensive linemen Xavier Williams and Bill Murray, linebackers Cassh Maluia, Rashod Berry, Scoota Harris and Terez Hall and corners Myles Bryant and D'Angelo Ross.

 

UPDATE (Sunday, Sept. 6 at 5:30 p.m. ET): Click here for the 16 players who will make up initial Patriots practice squad.

--End of Update--

17... As in the first time in 17 years that the Patriots don't have an undrafted rookie on their opening roster. Their 16-year streak, one of the longest in the NFL, is over. One casualty of no preseason games? That those players couldn't carve a niche for themselves and show off their skills for other teams. Taylor looked like a decent option to make the roster with Harris dealing with an injury. Berry looked like another possibility after having a solid camp and the height-weight-speed combination the Patriots typically like on the edge. With no preseason, though, there is no tape on players like Taylor or Berry for teams across the league to analyze. That means maybe the players will have a better chance of passing through waivers, allowing the Patriots to be able to re-sign those UDFAs to their practice squad.

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42... That's the number of regular-season games missed by Derek Rivers through his first three seasons. Injury robbed him of his first and third years in the league, and yet he was still able to capture a roster spot after Saturday's cuts. One of their most impressive outside linebackers during training camp, Rivers could help fill a void left by Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins' offseason departures. John Simon figures to be one top option at that spot with Rivers potentially factoring into a rotation with Chase Winovich, Shilique Calhoun and Brandon Copeland. With a path to playing time and looking like he's retained a significant portion of the athleticism that got him drafted in the third round out of Youngstown State in 2017, Rivers was the top redemption story of the summer in Foxboro.