Bill Belichick has had more than a month of practice action and four preseason games to get to this point. Now the Patriots coach has to make some tough decisions, a part of his job that he's often said is one of the more difficult things he has to do. The Turk will come calling 22 guys at some point in the next two days, and their NFL careers will hit a speed bump.
Following Thursday night's 16-13 loss to the Giants in New Jersey in the preseason finale, Belichick and the rest of his staff will have the whittle down the roster to 53 players by Saturday evening.
Some positions seem pretty set at this point, but others remain very much up in the air. Either way, tough calls and tougher cuts will have to be made.
With that in mind, here's a look at some of those players on the Patriots roster whose immediate future in New England is a bit tenuous. They are definitely on the roster bubble, the only question is whether that bubble bursts for each guy in question.
Jake Bequette – The third-year former third-round pick probably needed to make some noise this summer to stick around and make people forget his two seasons as essentially a healthy-scratch. He's gotten time as a stand-up linebacker and in a three-point stance. But there hasn't been a lot to show for his reps. One factor that could keep him around is that Michael Buchanan left the finale with a knee injury. If that's serious, Bequette might earn a reprieve given a need for depth behind the likes of Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones.
Josh Boyce** – The second-year former fourth-round pick has done little to stand out this summer. He had his chances once again against the Giants, but was not able to do much to improve his stock. He had a 21-yard return that got him to the 15. He had a couple opportunities for deep balls, but failed to get much separation even after he threw his arm up like Randy Moss to signal he was open. As the receiver spot and overall pass catcher roles get ironed out, Boyce might be in trouble. He's just never really displayed his supposed elite speed in a productive way on the field.
Brandon Bolden – The third-year running back did not make the trip south to take on the Giants. He missed his second straight game and third of the summer. He had just three carries this preseason for 21 yards, with 18 coming on one run. Bolden has been somewhat unreliable over his first two seasons and given how that's continued this summer he's no lock to remain a part of the committee backfield.
Jordan Devey** – The second-year offensive lineman showed his versatility this summer, seeing action all across the line. Through the first three weeks of preseason work, Belichick said Devey may have played more than any other player. But his work last week against the Panthers was less than impressive. He earned the start at left tackle in the finale, but as the line gets pared down he may find himself destined once again for the practice squad as the odd man out.
Darius Fleming – The third-year linebacker is now finally healthy and appears poised to win a job as a backup linebacker and key special teams option. He's been playing on the outside and seems to play bigger than his frame. He appears to have impressed the coaches enough to earn decent reps this summer and could parlay that into a job.
James Morris – The undrafted rookie has shown a little burst and pop as an inside linebacker in camp. But his stock took a hit when he left the game with a knee injury in New York. He was probably battling Steve Beauharnais for a backup role and maybe special teams job. Now it's a question of whether he's healthy and worth keeping on the roster.
Tavon Wilson/Nate Ebner – The safety spot next to Devin McCourty remains the most unsettled position on the team. It's been a rotating cast of names throughout the summer. At this point it appears that Duron Harmon and Patrick Chung will have jobs, even if neither has secured the starting spot. There is a good chance that both Wilson and Ebner remain as backups, but there is also the possibility that the number's crunch could mean that only one of the two sticks around.
Jerel Worthy** – It's not really fair to expect a guy to stand out after joining the Patriots via trade a couple weeks ago. Worthy is a former second-round pick who hadn't yet stepped on the practice field in Green Bay when he was acquired in the trade with the Packers. His action against the Panthers and Giants wasn't exactly eye-openingly impressive. It's also worth noting that the Patriots would give the Packers a seventh-round pick if Worthy makes the 53-man roster. Has he done enough to prove himself worthy of a job at the suddenly young, thin defensive line spot?
What do you think of this list of bubble players? Which will stay? Go? Let us know with a comment below!