The Patriots’ preseason finale served as a final audition for many players on New England’s 75-man roster.
By Saturday at 4 p.m., 22 Patriots players will be out of jobs. The Patriots suffered a slew of injuries Thursday in their 17-9 loss to the New York Giants, as offensive tackle Nate Solder, wide receiver Keshawn Martin, running back Tyler Gaffney, wide receiver Devin Lucien and linebacker Elandon Roberts all went down.
Those ailments make roster battle decisions both easier and more difficult on Bill Belichick. Here’s where the Patriots’ positional battles stand after Thursday night’s game.
With LeGarrette Blount, James White and Brandon Bolden looking like locks for the roster, the fourth spot comes down to Tyler Gaffney and D.J. Foster.
Foster went off for 110 yards on nine catches and 22 yards on nine carries. He fumbled after hauling in a 1-yard pass from Tom Brady in the first quarter but otherwise looked impressive.
Gaffney ran for 22 yards on six carries, while 16 of those came on one touch. Gaffney also injured his foot near the end of the third quarter and didn’t re-enter the game. He had his foot wrapped in the Patriots’ locker room.
Based on Foster’s performance and Gaffney’s injury, it appears the former has the advantage for a spot on the 53-man roster.
Foster could even compete with James White for the third-down role if he continues to churn out these types of performances in the passing game.
This seemed to be Keshawn Martin’s job to lose when it was reported the Patriots put Aaron Dobson on the trading block. Martin might have lost it when he too suffered a lower leg injury late in the game.
Martin caught two passes for 16 yards including a 7-yard touchdown from Brady before suffering the injury.
Dobson caught three passes for 61 yards but also didn’t properly fight for the ball on an interception thrown by Brady in the first quarter.
Martin’s injury could allow Dobson to steal a spot on the 53-man roster.
AJ Derby caught five passes on seven targets for 51 yards while Clay Harbor didn’t receive a single target. Harbor caught just two passes for 23 yards all preseason, while Derby hauled in 15 catches for 189 yards with a touchdown.
Harbor offers more versatility, with the ability to also play fullback, but it’s pretty clear at this point Derby is the most explosive receiver.
Anthony Johnson continued to make an impact as an interior rusher in the Patriots’ sub-package defense, while Markus Kuhn played into the third quarter, which is never a good sign for an experienced player.
Johnson finished the night with two tackles and a 1/2 sack. Kuhn didn’t show up on the stat sheet.
Rookie Vincent Valentine has been impressive enough that the Patriots can probably make due without Kuhn in their defensive line rotation. Johnson offers a different skill set than other Patriots defensive tackles like Valentine, Alan Branch and Malcom Brown.
The final cornerback roster spot is down to Cre’Von LeBlanc, Darryl Roberts and Jonathan Jones.
LeBlanc didn’t suit up after missing Tuesday’s practice with a reported hip injury.
Roberts allowed four catches on five targets for 39 yards, while Jones let up one 17-yard touchdown reception on three targets.
Jones is a standout on special teams, which could allow him to steal a roster spot, but LeBlanc, despite the injury, still seems like the top dog in this group.
Thumbnail photo via Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports Images
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