New England Roster Rounding Into Shape...
The New England Patriots announced their final roster cuts Saturday night, and the team is 95% set at the moment. The remaining 5% will be resolved when the Pats add 2 players to their roster, as they actually went a bit overboard and trimmed down to 51 players. Pro teams are allowed to carry 53 players.
- Speculation is rampant as to who those final 2 guys will be. One will almost certainly be a Defensive Tackle, as the Pats only have 3 on the roster presently. You play 2 at a time, and people get injured.... so look for some DT to be brought in, perhaps as early as today. This column favors former NY Giant and North Carolina DT Marvin Austin, but who besides Coach Bill Belichick knows?
- The other open position is more up for speculation. It could be a tight end, a defensive end, a linebacker, a someone to catch the ball, the proverbial Best Athlete Available... again, who knows?
- The Pats made several notable cuts yesterday. The biggest name was Tim Tebow, the God-fearing QB who, unfortunately, couldn't actually throw the ball.
Good kid, bad player. We already had the opposite of that in Walpole's Aaron Hernandez, who may be a PCP-smoking serial killer. Tebow will probably get a TV job somewhere, maybe take over The 700 Club power seat, effed if I know. I've heard Buffalo, Jacksonville and Oakland mentioned as potential Next Stops for him in the NFL.
The Pats will carry just two QBs this season... Tom Brady and Ryan "MC" Mallett.
- Tebow's release kills one of my two Tebow/Hernandez stories. The better one had Tebow framing the sinful Hernandez, then converting to tight end and stealing his roster spot so as to have a platform for his righteousness.
The other one, which would require a costlier special effects budget, involves Tebow becoming despondent after his release. Maybe he also got hit in the head, who knows? His childhood dreams destroyed, he decides to end it all... but before doing so, he confesses to the Hernandez murders, every single one. He sacrifices himself and his reputation to redeem Hernandez, who sees God's hand at work, reforms his ways, is released from jail, and catches 12 TDs for New England next season.
The best scene of the movie is Tebow, arms spread in a Christ-like manner, slowly falling forward off the Sagamore Bridge with a saviour's smile on his face, as the camera slowly pans back.........
- Just curious... but what if Hernandez is somehow acquitted? I've seen guilty-looking people walk, some of them even being football players.
We released him, so he'd have to pass through waivers before we got him back... assuming that we want a serial-killing PCP user in the locker room. If we got him, we'd essentially have the Puerto Rican offense version of Ray Lewis.
He'd be a fine mentor for the younger players, many of whom don't know how to score angel dust or assemble a proper legal defense team.
- The more important on-field matters concerning the cuts involved the demise of defensive ends Jermaine Cunninham, Marcus Benard and Justin Francis. These veterans were let go in favor of untested Jake Bequette and Michael Buchanan.
- Another important veteran to not make the active roster was former Arizona safety Adrian Wilson. Wilson was supposed to solidify the secondary, but instead failed to make the team. I don't recall seeing him get injured Thursday night, but he's going on injured reserve. He could retire from it, it's not for me to say.
With Adrian Wilson gone, the only new players injected into last year's horrid secondary are:
A) Logan Ryan, who may be the dime back unless Alfonzo Dennard punches another cop,
B) Duron Harmon, a 3rd round pick who was probably taken 5 rounds too early in a 7 round draft.
- I may be wrong, but Justin Francis is the only Rutgers guy we cut.... and he could be brought back if someone rolls an ankle. I was shocked to see him go, to be honest. I think that Belichick gets the Rutgers football field named after him if he gets 10 Rutgers guys (and potential alum donors) into the millionaires club that is today's NFL.
- The Pats will keep an old school fullback this season, James Develin. He could fill the void left by our sudden lack of tight ends. We released both Jake Ballard and Daniel Fells, Rob Gronkowski is injured, and Aaron Hernandez is presently the best football player on the prison system.
Gronk is on the PUP (physically unable to perform) list, and will not be able to play until 6 games into the season. He did practice in full pads Sunday. We only have 2 healthy tight ends at the moment, so look for more 3 WR, 2 RB sets on offense.... ironic, since we sort of pioneered the 2 TE attack during the all-too-brief Gronk/Henrandez heyday.
- We also have a new punter, as Zoltan Mesko was let go in favor of Ryan Allen. They have about the same lvel of talent (Zoltan has a weaker leg, but better aim), but Mesko was due to make $1.3 million this year, while the rookie will pocket $400K or so. Allen will also be our field goal-holder guy.
- The Pats will open the season with 3 rookie WRs in prominent roles. We may even have two or three rookies starting, if Danny Amendola is banged up.
It's a funny thing to say about a mass-millionaire married to a supermodel, but a great deal of Tom Brady's happiness and professional satisfaction will hinge on whether Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce and Kenbrell Thompkins are immediately NFL-ready.
My mother was going to name me "Kenbrell," but I had an aunt named "Stacey" who apparently needed to be accomodated.
Kenbrell, who 32 teams passed 8 times on, has been the most impressive of the bunch thus far.
- My wild guess on the starting lineup would be:
QB: Tom Brady, who must be thrilled to see his whole 2012 passing attack vanish, and no one of any apparent immediate ability brought in on either side of the ball. Atlas is shaking his head in pity at the load he sees Brady having to carry this year.
RB1: Stevan Ridley, who could be in for a great statistical year, as long as we don't play Detroit. Every NFL team passed on him at least twice in the NFL draft the year he came out.... and now, I don't think we advance in the playoffs without him having an Earl Campbell-style season.
RB2: Either Shane Vereen or LeGarrette Blount, depending on the situation.
WR1, Danny Amendola... if we have to throw a Hail Mary, we'll have a guy with "Amen" in his name trying to catch it. Never be afraid to court the supernatural in a game of inches.
WR2: Kenbrell Thompkins
WR3: Julian Edelman, Boyce, Dobson... your call.
TE: Rob Gronkowski, after Week 6, maybe. Otherwise, I have to learn how to spell Michael Hoomanwanui or something. Backup? Zach Sudfeld, who A) was passed on over 250 times by 32 teams in the last draft, and B) has a name that sounds like something you take to combat allergies.
LT: Nate Solder
LG: Logan Mankins
C: Ryan Wendell... my college roomate was from Louisiana, and "Wendell" would be the start of an angry interrogative sentence for her, as in "Wendell you gone be ready?"
RG: Dan Connolly, who is also the backup Center. If Wendell gets hurt, DC slides over and Marcus Cannon fills in here.
RT: Sebastian Vollmer... if Sea Bass has his bad back flare up aain, either Cannon or Will Svitek fills in. Bassy's back is always flaring up, so I'd better learn how to spell "Sviteck" or whatever it is.
.... and on Defense.......
DT1: Vince Wilfork... I believe that the switch to the 4-3 from the 3-4 was made 100% to lengthen Wilfork's career.
DT2: Tommy Kelly, who now is our only offseason acquisition of note.
DE1: Chandler Jones, who had a fine rookie season. If we have a double digit sack guy, it's Chandler.
DE2: Rob Ninkovich, who combines with Chandler to provide pretty much 100% of our pass rush.
OLB1: Jerod Mayo... He's actually a middle linebacker, but will be in coverage a lot, leaving the middle to...
MLB: Brandon Spikes, who is our best tackler, a genuinely mean player, absolutely incapable of pass coverage, and who may rotate in some form with speedy coverage guy Jamie Collins.
OLB2: Dont'a Hightower... We actually have a young and highly-talented linebacker corps, although there doesn't seem to be a pass-rusher in the bunch.
CB1: Aqib Talib, who is not only our only cornerback of any ability, but who is the only cornerback over 5'10" in bare feet presently on the roster. Joe Flacco, who signed for like $120 million this offseason in Baltimore, should give a quarter of that to Talib. Flacco was in the midst of a playoff collapse in the AFC title game until Talib got hurt. After that, he was able to abuse Kyle Arrington and eventually land that monster contract after a Super Bowl win.
FS: Devin McCourty, who used to be a cornerback. If Adrian Wilson were 5 years younger, Devin could very well be a weak starting CB paired with Talib.
SS: Steven Gregory, who beat out Wilson for this spot. Tavon Wilson is the principal backup Safety.
CB2: Kyle Arrington, who isn't as good as Alfonzo Dennard is... but who also doesn't punch cops in the face like Alfonzo Dennard does.
K: Stephen Gostkowski, who had a preseason that, briefly, made me think that he might be on dat dust with Hernandez.
P: Ryan Allen, who saves the team $900,000 and who most likely doesn't smoke PCP.
KR/PRs: Leon Washington (nope, cut Sunday night) and Julian Edelman, McCourty in an emergency. We actually have a pretty nice group here.
- Predictions for the season?
As bad as we may have looked at Detroit.. and with all the holes we failed to patch in our roster... well, check our schedule.
We get 6 games against a truly awful trio of Buffalo, Miami, and the New York Jets. Buffalo and the Jetties will be led by what look to be stumbling, inept rookie QBs. Neither team has a defense to worry about, and at least one of them may be presently coached by a foot-fetish buffoon.
Miami spent a lot of money this offseason, but they didn't really do anything that scares people in Foxboro. They, like Buffy and Gang Green, still need to draft the guy who is going to make the team competitive.
Score that as six wins, maybe 5 if we sleep on an opponent/someone important gets hurt. We most likely could beat at least the Jets if Brady and Wilfork didn't play and we had Mallett leading the team.
That leaves 10 games... and even if we regress mightily from last season and win only 30% to 50% of them, that's 8-11 wins, easily enough to win a weak AFC East. If the rookie WRs pan out, that could be 10-13 wins. Short of a team bus crash, New England should coast to the AFC East title.
We do have an all-time great coach, so add another win to that 8-11 total I gave you and multiply it by whether the rookie WRs make an immediate impact.
However... keep that Detroit game in your memory. Detroit isn't really that good... and their best player didn't play.... and it was only an exhibition game.... but they destroyed us.
Again, it was an exhibition game. But it was played against a team with a monster defensive line, speed on offense, and a really good quarterback. That's the kind of team you see in the playoffs, and it's the kind of team you have to beat to win a Super Bowl. Detroit beat us 40-9, and may have made Tom Brady cry more than once.
We'll make the playoffs. After that, we're going to run into either Denver, Baltimore, or some shocker team (Houston? The Bengals? Indy?) who made a Great Leap Forward. When that game comes, New England is in deep, deep trouble. 40-9 trouble, folks.
If Brady/Wilfork don't retire and if Belichick trades his whole draft and all of next year's to get an impact WR and a shutdown CB, we could stomp mothereffers in the 2014-2015 season. We can wring another championship out of Brady 'n' Bill, but not with the present supporting cast.
- Longshot, almost no-chance prediction?
Tom Brady suffers a catastrophic knee injury in Week One. The Pats collapse, trade away Wilfork and Mayo, gather draft picks, and go 2-14 this season. Brady retires, Wilfork and Mankins join him, and Belichick goes to Nantucket to trade up in the draft and plot his rebuilding strategy.
Next season? We're being QBd by either Teddy Bridgewater or the shadowy Johnny Football, and our best player is Jadevon Clowney.