Patriots Bubble Watch: David Andrews' status has trickle-down effect
FOXBORO — Cut-down day is coming, which means decisions loom for the Patriots. There are calls to be made on their own roster, and there are calls to be made on the hundreds of players who will suddenly become available over the course of the next few days across the league.
"With 1,300-plus that'll have a transaction here in the next few days, there'll be very few – if any – guys that we'll [miss]," Bill Belichick said this week. "We'll be [aware of] way over the 1,300. We're looking at maybe 1,300 and then some guys are going to make it, some guys aren't, but the guys that are there will be on. So I'd be surprised if there's somebody in that group that we haven't looked at tape on, had a preseason evaluation on, and that we're not up to speed with. That's what the pro personnel department does."
Yet if the Patriots want to bring aboard any of the players from around the NFL who will suddenly be without a job soon, that'll mean they'll have to part with another one of their own. Belichick may have an idea of who he's keeping and who he's cutting already — his team's preseason finale this week shouldn't sway him too much one way or the other — but it's worth pointing out a few who might be "on the bubble" so we can track their playing time against the Giants on Thursday.
There's no doubt Deatrich Wise is an NFL player. The question is, does he fit into the Patriots' defensive scheme? He's smaller than most 3-4 ends. He's bigger than most 3-4 outside linebackers. He could be used in sub situations, but the Patriots won't be pulling Michael Bennett off the field. Plus, Adam Butler has proven to be a productive interior rusher. And the Patriots like to go heavy on athletes in their "amoeba" fronts in passing situations. All that could mean Wise is a man without a well-defined role, which could make him a trade candidate.
Is Elandon Roberts such a lock for the roster that the Patriots would play him the same number of snaps as Dont'a Hightower or Kyle Van Noy? That's essentially what's happened through three preseason games this summer. Roberts (13 snaps) has seen about as much on-field time as two of the best players on the defense; Hightower has played 15 snaps and Van Noy has played 10. Or is the more likely scenario not that Roberts' roster spot is safe, but that the Patriots want to get a better look at other players at that position because they know enough already what Roberts can give them? He's been on the field with first-teamers at different points throughout training camp, even playing ahead of Ja'Whaun Bentley, who'd earned starting work earlier last year as a rookie. But as a run-stuffing linebacker who's had little special-teams or coverage responsibilities, he could be a candidate for trade or release. Even if he doesn't play Thursday, as we noted in this space, that doesn't necessarily guarantee his place on the roster.
The Patriots clearly wanted a slot receiver this offseason. They didn't get an established one. They did, however, unearth a what appears to be a diamond in the rough in undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers. The N.C. State product played in the slot in college and could run interior routes as a pro, though he's played all over Patriots formations this summer. Berrios might be the team's best bet to make the club as a true backup slot to Julian Edelman. But has he done enough this summer to earn his spot? It doesn't seem that way. He was held out of last week's preseason game but is expected to be healthy enough to play Thursday. The Patriots could have a bit of a conundrum on their hands in the preseason finale. If they play Berrios to get him some work and he lights it up, he'd be reducing his chances of making it through waivers and onto the Patriots practice squad. If he doesn't play, then the Patriots would be incredibly short-handed at wideout.
As a second-round pick last year, Dawson could very well be safe. But could his performance on Thursday nudge Belichick one way or the other? If Dawson plays the way he did in the third preseason game, allowing no catches on 18 snaps and not allowing any breakdowns in the kicking game, then his spot might be locked down. If he reverts to the player we saw in the first two preseason games, where he gave up three catches of 20 yards or more, then perhaps the Patriots would feel comfortable releasing him knowing he'd clear waivers and be eligible for the practice squad. I assume he'll make the roster as the team won't want to give up on a player who was selected where he was. Especially given that he hasn't played a regular-season snap just yet.
James Ferentz has had a tough go of it this preseason when the snaps have been live. He's played a total of 200 snaps, he's been flagged for four penalties, and he's allowed a total of six quarterback pressures — including two hits and two sacks. But now with David Andrews looking like he's going to miss significant time, Ferentz is squarely back in the active-roster conversation. Ted Karras is expected to be Andrews' replacement, and rookie Hjalte Froholdt is expected to be on the roster as a fourth-round pick. Would the team keep another interior player as its seventh lineman? And with newly acquired Korey Cunningham projecting to be the swing tackle, what ripple effect will his acquisition have on rest of the offensive line? Those questions put Ferentz's status up in the air.