Breaking Down the Patriots 53-Man Roster
The New England Patriots have cut the 90-man roster down to the final 53. There were some notable cuts as well as some notable guys who made the roster. To start with who made it, let’s look at the quarterback position. Bill Belichick usually only carries two quarterbacks on his roster, and he did just that this year. When you have Tom Brady at QB, you have the luxury of only carrying two QBs. Brian Hoyer landed the back-up QB job, while 7th round rookie Danny Etling was added to the practice squad. Bill was not going to carry a third quarterback and Hoyer won the job as he is the veteran and he is familiar with the Patriots’ offense as he started his career in New England. Etling will most likely stay on the Patriots’ practice squad throughout the year and maybe even make the 53-man roster next year once he has a year of the Pats’ system under his belt. Danny Etling did play the entire game against the Giants but had limited snaps in the previous three pre-season games.
The Patriots narrowed down their running back core to James White, Rex Burkhead, newly signed Jeremy Hill, and rookie Sony Michel. The three guys on the outs were Mike Gillislee, Brandon Bolden, and Ralph Webb. Mike Gillislee signed a two-year deal last offseason and never really shined. He found himself as a healthy inactive a couple of times last season, so he made sense as a cut this year. Brandon Bolden has mostly been used as a special teams guy and an emergency running back the last few seasons. With the amount of running backs the Patriots had, he found himself on the outside looking in. Ralph Webb was an undrafted free agent that exceled at Patriots’ camp. In the preseason, Webb had 31 carries for 102 yards with two TDs as well as five receptions for 28 yards with one TD. He did not make the 53-man roster but was added to the practice squad. He could find himself on the Patriots 53-man sometime this season if injuries persist for Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead. The four guys that made the roster all have spots on the team. White is the receiving back, Burkhead is the everything back, Michel is the high draft pick that can also do a little bit of everything, and Hill is the new signing that the Patriots want to try out to see what he can do. Belichick was not going to carry a 5th running back on the roster, so everyone else had to go. The Patriots typically had only three running backs active last season, so it will be interesting to see if any of those four backs are inactive this season.
The receiving core is pretty light to start the year. Only three receivers made the roster cuts. Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Cordarrelle Patterson all made the 53-man roster. Julian Edelman does not count towards the roster yet as he is serving a four-game suspension at the start of the season. The Patriots did sign free agents Amara Darboh and Chad Hansen to add a 4th and 5th wide receiver to the depth chart. Darboh and Hansen were both claimed off waivers as they did not make their respective teams’ rosters. Darboh is a second-year receiver who was cut by the Seahawks, and Hansen is also a second-year receiver who was cut by the Jets. Both of these guys have very little NFL playing experience but should provide some depth at the thin wide receiver position. Hansen had nine total receptions for 94 yards with no TDs in his rookie season, while Darboh had eight total receptions for 71 yards with no TDs in his rookie season. Patterson will serve as the kick and punt returner and will also see plenty of time lining up wide with the shortage of WRs. Both him and Dorsett will be deep ball threats for Tom Brady, while Hogan should be a good route runner and a guy that will find ways to get open.
One interesting cut on defense was Marquis Flowers. Flowers was traded to the Pats from the Bengals last season to add some depth to the linebacker position. He saw more playing time when Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy went down with injuries. He finished the year with 3.5 sacks, 23 tackles, 1 forced fumble, and 1 pass deflection. With Hightower and Van Noy returning, there was less of a need for Flowers. There were some interesting guys that made the 53-man roster at the defensive back position. CB J.C. Jackson went undrafted, but he made the 53-man roster. Jackson really stood out in the final preseason game against the Giants recording two tackles, four pass deflections, and two interceptions. That game solidified his spot on the roster and he will hope to make an impact this season. Stephon Gilmore will be the #1 corner but after that, there is not a real #2 corner. Rookies Duke Dawson and J.C. Jackson are the two guys to watch who could step up and take on that #2 role. Eric Rowe should fill the slot corner position and Jonathan Jones and Keion Crossen will provide good depth at the position. Newly acquired Jason McCourty did make the roster but he was moved to the safety position and will join his brother Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, and Duron Harmon who have held that position down for the Patriots for the last few years. McCourty will bring a veteran presence to the locker room and might be better suited for the safety position. The Patriots regular season kicks off Sunday, September 9th against the Houston Texans at Foxborough.