The New England Patriots cut ties with 20 players Saturday afternoon to finalize their 53-man roster.
Here are a few takeaways from cutdown day:
— The most surprising roster casualty to me was either defensive end Geneo Grissom or cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc. In my eyes, LeBlanc had outplayed Jonathan Jones in the preseason — though Jones had the stronger camp and LeBlanc did not play in the preseason finale — and I believed Rob Ninkovich’s four-game suspension would allow Grissom to stick around, at least for the beginning of the season.
Kamu Grugier-Hill, a sixth-round draft pick who’d been a core special teamer all summer, was another surprise cut.
There’s a strong chance all three players land on Patriots’ practice squad if no other teams claim them off waivers.
— Undrafted rookie D.J. Foster beat out Tyler Gaffney for the final spot on the running back depth chart despite missing the first two preseason games and much of training camp with an injury. The writing was on the wall for Gaffney after Foster’s big night Thursday against the New York Giants.
Foster also is the more versatile player, having played wide receiver during his time at Arizona State. Which brings us to…
— We discovered quantity does not necessarily equal quality when it comes to the Patriots’ receiving corps. New England released all five players that were vying for the fifth receiver spot (Aaron Dobson, Keshawn Martin, Chris Harper, DeAndre Carter and Devin Lucien) and unexpectedly kept just four wideouts.
Each of those five guys — plus Nate Washington, who was cut last month — had plenty of chances to assert himself with Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan all missing time this summer, but all failed to separate themselves from the pack.
What does mean for the Patriots’ offense? Well, it could mean a few things.
It could mean Mitchell (elbow) and Amendola (on the physically unable to perform list all summer) are at least close to returning to action, as it’s highly unlikely New England would enter Week 1 with just two healthy wideouts. Or, if neither is ready, there’s a strong chance the team will look to acquire a wideout who fell victim to final cuts elsewhere.
Also of note: The Patriots had until 4 p.m. ET to place Amendola on the reserve/PUP list, which would automatically sideline him for the first six games of the regular season. They did not, meaning he is eligible to play whenever he is healthy enough to do so. He also takes up a spot on the 53-man roster, while players like Dion Lewis, Sebastian Vollmer and Tre’ Jackson, all of whom were placed on reserve/PUP, do not.
Suspended players Ninkovich and Tom Brady also do not count against the 53-man.
— Although A.J. Derby outplayed him during the preseason, Clay Harbor was able to snag a roster spot after the Patriots somewhat surprisingly decided to keep four tight ends: Harbor, Derby, Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett.
The ability to play Gronkowski and Bennett together in two-tight end sets lessened the need to keep five wide receivers on the roster.
— As the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe pointed out on Twitter, seven of the Patriots’ nine 2016 draft picks made the team. That included linebacker Elandon Roberts and offensive lineman Ted Karras, sixth-rounders who both were on the roster bubble entering Saturday.
Grugier-Hill and receiver Devin Lucien (seventh round) were the only cuts.
Thumbnail photo via James Lang/USA TODAY Sports Images