FOXBOROUGH — "Who are some of these guys, and what can they do?"
I've probably been asking myself those questions more to this point than any time in recent Patriots training camps, because this has been one of the most unique set of practices that I can recall at any NFL training camp.
The players have been given a lot of recovery time, and when they have practiced, the amount of competitive and physical reps have been dramatically decreased, to say nothing of the lessened workload on Tom Brady. I'm sure Bill Belichick has his reasons, he always does (and I'm willing to bet these are rooted in sports science via Ted Harper, the team nutritionist). But the bottom line is there appears to be less information on many of these players at this stage of camp than in previous years. The coaches might not even have a full picture of the strengths and weaknesses of some of these players, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Patriots hold off on cuts for as long as they can.
But the preseason game against Washington certainly helped to clear up the picture, and that continued into Sunday's practice as many players were shuffled between spots. It seems the coaches gleaned more data from the game, and now they're testing some of the players to see if they can respond in certain situations. Thursday's game against the Eagles should bring a little more clarity.
For now, here's my initial stab at the final 53 — including the trades of two players — which is sure to change over the next three weeks.
- I have 25 players each on offense and defense, which is how they ended up at the final cutdown last season.
- The last place I cut from was the interior of the offensive line. Cole Croston, who was a surprise inclusion last year, was my final cut. Tackle has been a place where they've skimped in the past, but Marcus Cannon's health is a major concern, and Isaiah Wynn obviously isn't going anywhere.
- You could definitely talk me into keeping five receivers and beyond Chris Hogan, Cordarrelle Patterson and Matthew Slater (who isn't even a receiver), anyone could be the final two spots. None of the players has shown they deserve a spot.
- The proposed trade of Mike Gillislee obviously depends on the health of Sony Michel, and it wouldn't surprise me if he ends up on injured reserve and a possible return. In that case, Gillislee — who doesn't deserve to be cut — sticks.
- The Patriots have a glut at defensive tackle. If they can get a third or fourth for Malcom Brown, you would figure he's the odd man out.
OG Cole Croston: Wish he was a little more versatile.
LB Nicholas Grigsby: Probably the one cut I will regret the most. Good player.
WR Devin Lucien: Probably the best-performing WR after the three locks (sans Edelman).
TE Ryan Izzo: Just a good football player.
DT John Atkins: Has a chance, and I may try harder to keep him.
CBs J.C. Jackson, Keion Crossen: There has to be a reason why they brought so many corners to camp, right? Brandon King moving to linebacker takes up a spot that would normally go to an extra DB.
LB Marquis Flowers: Solid all-around player who can play in this league, but the Patriots drafted Ja'Whaun Bentley and Christian Sam to be better than players on the roster. Flowers is probably one of those players.
What do you guys think? Anyone I should take a harder look at? Leave your thoughts in the comments.