Not a whole lot of changes from our first 53-man roster projection (we're still projecting two trades pending more injury information — especially at running back — as we get closer to the final roster cutdown at 4 p.m. on Sept. 1). But there was a little movement, including a replacement for Isaiah Wynn, a switch at receiver and an additional cornerback.
Here's my new roster, and they'll we'll address the changes:
Release WR Eric Decker, add WR Riley McCarron: This could change depending what we see on Friday night, and how Decker continues to get acclimated — if he's given that chance (Bill Belichick usually releases veterans early to give them a chance to catch on elsewhere) — but for now, we haven't seen enough to justify giving Decker a spot. And it's not about McCarron really earning the spot; it's pretty much by default because of the lack of options. Devin Lucien and Braxton Berrios are definitely in the conversation, but McCarron has the most experience in the system, he fits the physical profile where they need the most help without Julian Edelman, and he can return punts. As far as Decker goes, a scout once told me if a veteran receiver has trouble catching the ball, it's because his feet have slowed and his body is no longer in sync. And Decker just looks unsure of himself. If I sign a veteran receiver who has some familiarity with this scheme, I expect them to come in and be sure of themselves — or at least fake it. Decker doesn't look like he has any confidence.
RT Isaiah Wynn to injured reserve, OT Ulrick John to the 53-man roster: Matt Tobin is the other option. I can't see the Patriots going with three tackles now that Marcus Cannon can't be counted on physically. Both Tobin and John are basically the same guys — veterans who don't make much on one-year deals. John has been the better blocker in one-on-ones, and he's played very well in the first two preseason games. Tobin has played well in games, and his poor one-on-one record could be because he's played left tackle and that's often the tougher assignment. But right now, John seems like the safe bet and he's solid. Also would not rule out a possible roster claim if someone the Patriots and Dante Scarnecchia liked in pre-draft evaluations the past few years suddenly hits the street.
Release LB/S Brandon King, CB J.C. Jackson to roster as sixth cornerback: I was on board with King moving to linebacker, especially if it meant that he would take Jordan Richards' jobs. And King was in the linebacker mix early in camp. But since then? We haven't seen much. Some of that has to do with an injury issue that limited his time. And then we got to Thursday's game, and he didn't play one snap on defense. Unless the Patriots are purposely keeping King and his role under wraps so teams like the Texans and Jaguars can't game-plan for him — and that's always a possibility. But I'm not holding my breath, since we didn't even see it on the practice field — then it seems to me they can't find a spot for him. And in adding Jackson to the roster, I'm a lot more comfortable now with six cornerbacks as opposed to the five I had previously. I really like Jackson's size, which aligns more with Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe. Jackson would give them a backup at boundary corner. Jason McCourty can play inside and outside, but Jonathan Jones and Duke Dawson are interior guys. (Dawson's safety/corner versatility allows me to go with five safeties and possibly four if Eddie Pleasant doesn't earn a spot.)