Patriots Mailbag: Who’s On The Bubble Ahead Of First Roster Deadline?

The Patriots must trim their roster to 85 players by Tuesday


August 14, 2021

Got questions about the New England Patriots after their preseason-opening win over the Washington Football Team? You’ve come to the right place.

As the Patriots prepare to fly to Philadelphia for a pair of joint practices with the Eagles, let’s dive into this week’s mailbag.

How will the Patriots go from 90 players to 85 players by Tuesday’s cutdown deadline?

Good question, Miguel. Though the Patriots don’t need to finalize their initial 53-man roster until Aug. 31, their first cutdown deadline is this Tuesday, when all teams must drop from 90 players to 85. That means a few Patriots roster hopefuls will be either placed on season-ending injured reserve or handed their walking papers in the coming days.

As of Friday night, New England’s roster on featured 90 players*, including fullback Jakob Johnson, who has an international player exemption and does not count against the 90-man limit. The team must make four additional cuts by Tuesday.

Which players could be on the chopping block? Here are a few candidates:

TE David Wells
G Alex Redmond
OL R.J. Prince
WR Marvin Hall
WR Devin Ross
DB D’Angelo Ross
LS Brian Khoury (if Joe Cardona is healthy enough to return)

Teams must then trim their rosters to 80 players by Aug. 24, ahead of their third and final preseason game.

(*Per the team’s online roster, offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins was placed on IR at some point this week. There’s been no announcement of that move on the NFL transaction wire, though, and Hawkins played in Thursday night’s game. If Hawkins still is on the roster, the Patriots will need to cut five players to reach the new limit.)

In the kicker evaluation, was missing that PAT as impactful as hitting those field goals? Consistency as BB said.

I wouldn’t say as impactful, no, but Bill Belichick certainly noticed. The coach mentioned Quinn Nordin’s missed extra point in his postgame presser before preaching the importance of consistency. The Patriots clearly aren’t ready to declare Nordin the victor in this roster battle just yet.

He has been pretty-darn impressive, though. Across two in-stadium walkthroughs and one preseason game, the undrafted rookie is 18-for-19 on all kick attempts, including three makes from 50-plus yards.

The 50-yarder he drilled against Washington was an absolute moon bomb, hitting halfway up the net behind the goal post.

If Nordin keeps this up, it’ll be very difficult to leave him off the 53-man roster, even if the injured Nick Folk makes a swift recovery.

What’s the RB situation gonna look like come regular season? Is J.J Taylor, James White, and Rhamondre Stevenson all gonna see consistent work outside of Damien Harris?

I was very impressed by the way Stevenson ran Thursday night. His 91-yard touchdown was the obvious highlight, but his earlier snaps featured some standout moments, too. I liked the elusiveness he showed on his third carry, which went for 9 yards, and the raw power he displayed on his third-and-1 conversion. Eight of the rookie’s 10 carries either gained 4-plus yards or resulted in a touchdown. (He finished with 127 yards and two scores.)


Don’t automatically assume Stevenson will have a significant role this season just because he balled out against second- and third-stringers in a preseason game. Remember when Harris rushed for 80 yards and averaged 5.7 per carry in his preseason debut two years ago? He wound up playing just five offensive snaps as a rookie. Remember when Jonas Gray went for 98 yards (8.2 per carry) in Week 2 of the 2014 preseason? He didn’t make the Week 1 roster.

That’s not to say Stevenson can’t or won’t become a real contributor in Year 1. But don’t be shocked if he still winds up receiving the Patriots’ traditional rookie redshirt.

thoughts on Uche and Dugger perfomances, and does this hurt Barmore’s ability to get regular playing time? Just not being able to play

I have high expectations for Josh Uche and Kyle Dugger this season, and I thought both got off to good starts Thursday night. Uche had the more impactful night, making his presence felt as a pass rusher while seeing reps at both outside linebacker and inside linebacker. No need to worry about the injury that ended his outing, either; Uche spoke with reporters after the game and said he felt “terrific.”

Dugger allowed a long completion to tight end Logan Thomas on New England’s second defensive series but was clean thereafter. He later blanketed Temmarick Hemingway on a deep ball that was broken up by Myles Bryant. Man-to-man coverage was Dugger’s biggest weakness as a rookie, so I’ll be looking for improvement from the promising Lenoir-Rhyne product in that area.

As for rookie defensive tackle Christian Barmore, it would have been nice to see him on the field Thursday — he dressed but didn’t play after missing practice time with a nagging foot injury — but he should have a role in this defense if he’s healthy. Barmore has looked like beast at times in training camp, especially during 1-on-1 drills.

Does the Patriots DEF have enough talent or ability to apply a strong pass rush? #CoxTalks
I think you’re going to see a much-improved Patriots pass rush this season. Their third-down package could be Matt Judon, Kyle Van Noy, Dont’a Hightower and Uche, with someone like Barmore filling the D-tackle spot. That’s miles better than last year, when the Patriots, out of necessity, were using guys like Derek Rivers and Shilique Calhoun in those groupings.

Is it me, or is the backup O line really shaky?

Yeah, it’s not great. Outside of the seemingly locked-in top seven (the five starters plus Ted Karras and Justin Herron), the only O-lineman who’s stood out positively to me is James Ferentz. He’s been a surprisingly tough matchup in training camp 1-on-1s and had a solid night Thursday, playing nearly the entire game at center and allowing just one pressure, per Pro Football Focus.

Right now, I’d peg Ferentz as the favorite to land the eighth roster spot in this group, especially with Karras and starter David Andrews both banged up. If the Patriots want to keep an additional tackle, Korey Cunningham probably would be the choice, though he hasn’t looked particularly impressive this summer.

Do you think they?ll get a deal done with Stephon Gilmore?

I do. Because they’ll be in serious trouble if they don’t. The dropoff from Gilmore to Jalen Mills, Joejuan Williams or Michael Jackson would be massive, and if the Patriots weren’t confident they could keep their superstar corner, you have to imagine they’d have done more to bolster their depth behind him.

I also don’t sense any real acrimony between Gilmore and the Patriots. Gilmore has been rehabbing at the facility daily since training camp began, and his family even visited the stadium last week for one of the team’s evening practices. I believe the sides will reach an agreement in time for the season opener.

If you consider how well Judon and Perkins played, combined with Van Noy?s return and overall depth at the position, do you see a Winovich trade as a possibility?

It’s possible, yeah. The Patriots have so many talented edge rushers on their roster right now, and Winovich continues to lose ground as his stint on the PUP list drags on. He’s now missed 12 training camp practices and counting, plus the one game. I still think Winovich provides value as a rotational pass rusher and core special teamer, but the Patriots could view him as a luxury in an overstocked position group.

What?s happening with Jennings? Are they going to do a second year stash like with keene?
It was surprising to see Anfernee Jennings inactive the other night. He’s participated in every practice since his delayed arrival at training camp, so it’s unclear what kept him out against Washington. And he isn’t in any position to be missing reps. Though he was drafted in the third round just last year, I don’t believe Jennings is guaranteed a roster spot after the Patriots overhauled their linebacking corps this offseason.

Did Wilkerson cost himself a roster spot last night? Harry did nothing, but Wilkersons negatives may push him low enough to let the sunk cost of Harry be the tie breaker in who to keep
I think you’re being a bit hard on Kristian Wilkerson. The young wideout definitely wasn’t perfect Thursday — he should have caught that deep touchdown pass from Mac Jones, and he had another possible drop on a would-be diving catch — but I thought he was solid overall. He and Jones seemed to have a nice connection going, especially on third down, and he even bailed out the rookie QB with a nice adjustment on one of his six catches. Wilkerson was far more involved than Harry, who played more snaps (36 to 32) and finished with just one catch on one target for 4 yards.

It certainly wasn’t the type of performance that would push a player off the roster. And Wilkerson’s presence on some of New England’s top special teams units boosts his chances of sticking around. The roster battle between the 2020 practice squadder and the much more highly touted Harry will be fascinating to watch over the next two weeks.

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