The Patriots got down to 53 players on Saturday afternoon by releasing 24 players, but it might be a short absence for many them as the team continues to compose their full roster through the weekend.
But this initial 53 is significant -- these are the players who can take advantage of the league's new Injured Reserve policy starting tomorrow and returning to the field in as little as three weeks. Expect some open roster spots, along with the 16 practice squad spots to be filled on Sunday, assuming they'll place at least a couple of the initial 53 on IR.
Here's five things that jump out about the kicker-less roster, for now!
1. Young Weapons
Cam Newton will be surrounded by a young supporting class of weapons with some key veterans sprinkled in and an experienced offensive line blocking for them. The ceiling of the Patriots offense will be determined by how well their young weapons at receiver, tight end and running back step up. Newton, Julian Edelman and James White won't be enough to do it alone, new faces must rise to the challenge and make impact plays.
2. New-look front seven
This is captain Ja'Whaun Bentley's defense now and he'll be in the middle of a new wave of linebackers and edge players that the Patriots are trying to groom. The known quantities are captain Lawrence Guy and John Simon, two tough, experienced defenders who will show up. But around them it's largely a cast of previous role players. The hope is that some of them emerge or, at worst, their complementary skillsets can be woven together over four downs.
The secondary should be good enough to buy them some time.
3. Know when to hold 'em
The Patriots kept all 10 of their offensive linemen, which, behind the veteran starters, now features depth of four first- and second-year draft picks. The team clearly valued their young players and made sure to protect all of them, a theme through the entire roster. A youth movement shouldn't be surprising given the circumstances of the last offseason and the Patriots roster is heavily invested in their homegrown veterans and draft picks.
The big exception is, of course, at the quarterback position.
4. No UDFAs
With no undrafted rookie making the initial roster, a long-running trend has come to an end. The undrafted rookies had a near-impossible task this summer to make the team with no chance to shine in the preseason. Still, this is unlikely to be the end of the 2020 UDFA class, as the practice squad remains a possibility for many of them. J.J. Taylor and Jeff Thomas both have some notable dynamics.
5. Kicker returner?
After cutting both their kickers, it's a pretty solid bet that either or both Justin Rohrwasser and Nick Folk will be back on the roster in some capacity in short order. Sixth-round draft pick Cassh Maluia is another player who had a solid camp and should be a favorite to return as well, as could any of the young receivers that they let go. Running back Lamar Miller is also a practice squad possibility with the new IR rules.
By Monday the roster should look vastly different, but it's a start. Still a ton of movement to come tomorrow.