Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has wrapped up the most difficult few hours of the season by cutting 15 players to get the roster to 53 in time for Saturday's league-mandated deadline. The Pats also placed running back Kevin Faulk, defensive lineman Ron Brace and defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick on the physically unable to perform list, which means they'll miss at least the first six weeks of the season.
Offensive lineman Marcus Cannon was officially placed on the non-football injury list, and offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger was placed on injured reserve.
The 15 players who were released included defensive lineman Landon Cohen, linebacker Niko Koutouvides, safety Brandon Meriweather, defensive end Eric Moore, running back Sammy Morris, wide receiver Brandon Tate, wide receiver Tiquan Underwood, offensive lineman Thomas Austin, running back Eric Kettani, safety Ross Ventrone, linebacker Markell Carter, defensive lineman Aaron Lavarias, defensive end Alex Silvestro, tight end Lee Smith and tight end Will Yeatman.
This certainly doesn't mean the Patriots are done. They made four transactions during the Sunday of last year's roster-cut weekend, acquiring linebacker Tracy White, safety Jarrad Page and tackle Steve Maneri while releasing linebacker Tyrone McKenzie. Two years ago, the Sunday of roster-cut weekend marked the day the Patriots traded Richard Seymour to the Raiders. Also note the Patriots signed 16 players to the active roster after Week 1 in 2010.
Here's a look at the Patriots' initial 53-man roster of the season.
Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett
Analysis: The Patriots don't have the luxury of only carrying two quarterbacks on the active roster this season. Mallett never would have cleared waivers.
Running Backs (4)
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead
Analysis: The release of Sammy Morris is a good sign for the health of Ridley. This is a solid young group of running backs who will be helped by the locker-room presence of Kevin Faulk.
Wide Receivers (6)
Deion Branch, Julian Edelman, Chad Ochocinco, Taylor Price, Matthew Slater, Wes Welker
Analysis: There's a good mix of young and old here, and Edelman will likely be the team's primary kick returner.
Tight Ends (2)
Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez
Analysis: I'd expect the Patriots to hope to get Lee Smith or Will Yeatman to land on the practice squad. There will definitely be some reserves set to back up Gronkowski and Hernandez in the case of emergency.
Offensive Linemen (8)
Dan Connolly, Dan Koppen, Matt Light, Steve Maneri, Logan Mankins, Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Ryan Wendell
Analysis: Connolly was walking around the Gillette Stadium field after Thursday night's game, and he didn't have any protection on his ankle or walk with a limp. And Wendell shouldn't be far from returning. Another good sign for their health: the Patriots cut Thomas Austin, who could have been a useful third-stringer. Of course, the Patriots might still try to add a veteran interior lineman through waivers.
Defensive Linemen (9)
Mark Anderson, Andre Carter, Shaun Ellis, Albert Haynesworth, Kyle Love, Myron Pryor, Gerard Warren, Vince Wilfork, Mike Wright
Analysis: It was surprising to see Love, Pryor and Warren all make the team, but Eric Moore was the casualty, even though he plays a different position. At the very least, Moore's dismissal is a good sign for the health of Jermaine Cunningham, who plays defensive end in four-man fronts.
Jermaine Cunningham, Dane Fletcher, Gary Guyton, Jerod Mayo, Rob Ninkovich, Brandon Spikes, Jeff Tarpinian, Tracy White
Analysis: Tarpinian had a nice start to training camp before suffering an injury that has kept him out for a few weeks. He might be the 53rd player on the roster.
Kyle Arrington, Leigh Bodden, Darius Butler, Ras-I Dowling, Devin McCourty, Antwaun Molden
Analysis: Reports indicated the Patriots attempted to trade Butler, and it's surprising to see them carry six cornerbacks. Butler or Molden might still be on the way out eventually.
Josh Barrett, Sergio Brown, Patrick Chung, James Ihedigbo
Analysis: Brandon Meriweather was probably the most high-profile casualty this week. Don't be surprised if he stays in the division with the Dolphins or Jets. Right now, Chung and Brown will be the starters, but the Patriots will almost certainly add another safety to the mix.
Long snapper James Dearth, kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Zoltan Mesko
Analysis: No surprises here, at least not since the Patriots replaced Matt Katula with Dearth.
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