New England Patriots training camp officially ended Sunday, when players participated in their first practice without fans or media in attendance. It’s time to get down to business.
It’s also when players and coaches have to accept the reality that roster cuts are just 11 days away. Patriots players have two more weeks practice and two more preseason games to prove they deserve a spot on the 53-man roster.
Here are 11 players currently on the roster bubble:
QB DANNY ETLING
Competing with: Brian Hoyer (kind of)
Etling hasn’t done nearly enough to nail down a roster spot at this point. At the same time, he hasn’t been so terrible that he has zero chance of making the Patriots. He’d need strong Weeks 3 and 4 of the preseason to convince the Patriots they can’t risk losing him on waivers. The Patriots likely would need to create a roster spot for him by keeping three quarterbacks and cutting a player at another position.
RB JEREMY HILL
Competing with: Mike Gillislee, Brandon Bolden, Ralph Webb
Hill has been significantly better than Gillilsee and Webb in the preseason. So, what’s holding him back from being a 53-man roster lock? What if the Patriots only choose to keep four running backs and pick Bolden over him? Hill also has had some trouble holding on to the football.
WR ERIC DECKER
Competing with: Kenny Britt, Devin Lucien, Paul Turner
The Patriots could choose to keep one or two of the players listed above. Decker might find himself on the roster by default if Britt’s hamstring doesn’t fully heal soon. Decker has certainly had trouble catching the football, which is kind of a problem for a receiver, in training camp.
WR BRAXTON BERRIOS
Competing with: Riley McCarron
Or neither could make the 53-man roster. McCarron currently is the favorite among the two. What could keep Berrios or McCarron on the roster is their upside as slot receivers and experience punt returning. Neither has truly stood out.
TE RYAN IZZO
Competing with: Dwayne Allen, Will Tye
It seems likely Allen will make the roster. But if the Patriots are looking for a younger, cheaper blocking option in case Rob Gronkowski goes down with injury, then Izzo would be the guy. He hasn’t consistently shined, but he’s a better blocker than receiver.
OL COLE CROSTON
Competing with: Luke Bowanko, James Ferentz, Ulrick John, Ted Karras, Jason King, Brian Schwenke, Matt Tobin
The Patriots could carry anywhere from one to three of the players listed above. Croston’s chances of making the roster increased when the Patriots reportedly lost Isaiah Wynn for the season to injury. Croston’s versatility to play tackle or guard could prove to be valuable and ultimately allow the Patriots to keep fewer offensive linemen.
DE KEIONTA DAVIS
Competing with: Eric Lee, Trent Harris, Geneo Grissom
All four of these players can make a case for a roster spot. Davis is big and versatile with upside. Lee was productive in limited action with the Patriots last season. Harris has been productive in the preseason this summer, and Grissom has special-teams value.
Ultimately, Davis is probably the guy to keep.
DT VINCENT VALENTINE
Competing with: Adam Butler, Frank Herron, John Atkins
It seems much more likely Butler makes the roster over Valentine. Could they keep both, though? Valentine is a 2016 third-round pick who missed all of last season. It would be early to give up on him, but Butler, Danny Shelton, Malcom Brown and Lawrence Guy are ahead of him on the depth chart.
LB ELANDON ROBERTS
Competing with: Marquis Flowers, Nicholas Grigsby, Harvey Langi, Christian Sam
It feels redundant to keep Roberts and Ja’Whaun Bentley — two two-down linebackers who don’t play special teams — on the roster, right? But doesn’t it also feel like both players will ultimately make it?
CB JASON MCCOURTY
Competing with: Keion Crossen, JC Jackson, Cyrus Jones, Ryan Lewis, Jomal Wiltz
Crossen, Jackson and Wiltz all struggled Thursday night in the Patriots’ second preseason game, while Cyrus Jones, Lewis and Jonathan Jones (who seems destined for a roster spot) sat out with injuries.
McCourty allowed a touchdown, but he only was targeted twice by Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks. We’d keep him. But will the Patriots?
S EDDIE PLEASANT
Competing with: Jordan Richards, Damarius Travis, A.J. Moore
The Patriots need a fourth safety in case one of their top three options goes down with an injury. That could keep Moore, a special-teamer like Nate Ebner, out of the mix.
Both Pleasant and Richards have been better than Travis in preseason. There’s enough baggage with Richards that it might be worth starting fresh with Pleasant.
Thumbnail photo via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images