What to Watch For: Patriots Pre-Season Week 3
For those of you who don’t know me too well, I’ll let you know my two biggest loves in life. One you already probably know.
Hawaiian Shirts and Patriots Football. My wife is a close third if she happens to be reading. Hopefully that’ll explain why I’m doing a Pre-Season Patriots Preview. I already got the Hawaiian Shirt blog out of the way earlier this week. Check it out here if you happen to live under a rock and missed it.
Tonight’s game against the Detroit Lions is much more than a run of the mill Pre-Season game. The 3rd Pre-Season game every year serves as the Regular Season dress rehearsal for every NFL team. Rosters will have to be cut drastically by next Saturday, so it’s time for roster spots to be won and lost. On this team, there is a deep pool of talent so Bill has his work cut out for him.
The roster cutdown system has been revamped starting in 2017, which I don’t think many people realize. There have always been two roster cutdowns in the Pre-Season, one after Week 3 from 90 to 75, then the final one after Week 4 down to 53. Starting this year, there will just be one big cut-down from 90 to 53 on September 2nd. That will give the fringe talent the ability to state their case for a spot on the 53 man roster right through the end of Pre-Season.
I’ll go in depth on some of these positional battles to keep an eye on tonight, and who I think might get sent packing come next Saturday.
It would seem that James White, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee and James Develin are the only locks to make the roster at this position. Dion Lewis should make the team, but I’ve seen crazier things happen. Don’t be shocked if he ends up getting traded out of town to open a roster spot for Special Team’s ace Brandon Bolden. Bolden’s Special Team’s prowess should help his case when it comes down to cut day. D.J. Foster and Glenn Gronkowski are on the outside looking in and I don’t expect either to make the team. They’re both candidates for the Practice Squad.
Wide Receiver is as stacked as I have ever seen it in the Belichick era. Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell are locks. I think we’ll end up keeping six Wide Receiver’s this year as Matthew Slater will make the team, if healthy. That leaves Austin Carr and Devin Lucien the first two out. Austin Carr has been this years Zach Sudfeld and most of New England is in love with their latest white Wide Reciever. Don’t be shocked if he pops up on Injured Reserve with a mysterious ailment so he doesn’t get subjected to waivers where a team like the Jets could scoop him up.
Gronk isn’t going anywhere. Newsflash of the century. Dwayne Allen seems to have secured a roster spot after a very slow start to camp. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. I would assume that given Gronk’s injury history that we’d keep a third Tight End on the roster, but who knows. It seems to be pretty convoluted between Matt Lengel, Jacob Hollister and James O’Shaughnessey. I hope that if we keep three, the third is O’Shaughnessey because goddamn does that dude fit in around here with a name like that.
Dante Scarnecchia returning as O-Line coach last year and the job that he did with this line doesn’t get nearly the praise it deserved. This same line got destroyed in the AFC Championship game in 2015 in Denver and looked in absolute shambles. Then ol’ Scarney comes back through the door in 2016 and suddenly the line is playing like the fucking Dallas Cowboys. Hell, he turned Marcus Cannon from a roster bubble player to a guy that was PFF’s Top Rated Right Tackle in 2016.
In 2017, we’re returning our five starters from last season in Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon. I think this is the year that Ted Karras steps up to that important reserve Guard/Center role. Reports on him coming out of camp have been overwhelmingly positive, and he appears to have beefed up quite a bit in the off-season.
The battle to watch will be the battle between Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle for the swing tackle spot. Waddle had a promising start to his career, going from undrafted free agent to the starting right tackle for the Lions by Week 8 of his rookie season. Unfortunately for him, he has struggled to stay healthy and that is still the case this season. I expect Cam Fleming to win this battle, but keep an eye on it tonight.
This is the weakest spot on this team right now. Last year’s trade of Chandler Jones was a necessary evil, as we were not going to give him the pay day that Arizona just gave him. Coming in to this season, it was expected that we would rely more on Rob Ninkovich and highly touted 3rd round rookie Derek Rivers. Fast forward to today, and Nink is retired slugging beers in the Gillette Stadium parking lot and Derek Rivers is on season ending Injured Reserve with a knee injury.
This team needs Kony Ealy to step up in a big way, and so far he has underwhelmed. Even given the problems at this position, it wouldn’t shock me in the least to see him among the cuts next week. Reports are that he and Belichick clashed early in camp, which does not bode well for his chances at securing a roster spot. I think Belichick will be looking down at Kony on cutdown day like Omar:
UPDATE: I wrote this last night, but as of 10:13 AM, Bleacher Report is reporting that the Pats are gauging the trade market for Kony Ealy. You heard it from Thrilly first!
Expect Trey Flowers to be locked in as one of the starting ends. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see someone sign after Week 1 and come in on a non-guaranteed veteran’s minimum deal, which sounds like Belichick to a tee. Keep an eye on free agents Dwight Freeney and Mario Williams.
Like Wide Receiver, Linebacker is a spot with great depth this season. Dont’a Hightower, Elandon Roberts, Shea McClellin, David Harris and Kyle Van Noy are locks. I think we could keep a sixth backer this year, and that spot will come down to Jonathan Freeney and Harvey Langi. Keep an eye on both of them tonight.
Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore are locks, and I believe Eric Rowe is as well. The fourth corner spot is Justin Coleman‘s to lose. I think Cyrus Jones gets another chance this season, contrary to what I would do. If this was Madden, this dude would be cut in a heartbeat. But, this is why Bill gets paid the big bucks.
The rest of the roster seems locked and loaded. We’re less than two weeks away from football games that start counting! The Blitz for Six starts soon!
-Will The Thrill-