While there was no major splash made when Bill Belichick made his final round of cuts to get his squad down to the mandatory 53-man limit, there were a few mild surprises.
Running back Patrick Pass, who was entering his fourth season with the team, and veteran free agent wideout Dedric Ward both enjoyed solid preseasons but couldn't stick with the club. Belichick spoke highly of both players and explained the team opted to keep more bodies on defense than offense, limiting the chances for skilled position players like Pass and Ward to remain.
"If you want to be younger on defense then you have to keep younger players on defense," Belichick explained. "We kept a number of those. We went heavier on the defensive side of the ball than offense and when you do that there are only so many skilled position players you can have. If you keep carrying more, you have deactivation issues [on game day]."
The remaining unlucky eight that join Pass and Ward on the unemployment line are tackle Matt Knutson, guards Russ Hochstein and Jamil Soriano, safety Shawn Mayer, linebacker Ula Tuitele, wide receiver Thabiti Davis, nose tackle Ethan Kelley and cornerback Leonard Myers.
Further illustrating Belichick's point, the staff kept nine linebackers, eight defensive linemen and 10 defensive backs. That's 27 players on defense as compared to just 23 on offense – including just eight offensive linemen. In Belichick's first three seasons, he's kept nine up front twice and 10 last year.
The surprise in that area was Hochstein, who appeared to be carving a niche for himself by filling in at center against Philadelphia when Damien Woody, Dan Koppen and Bill Conaty all were injured. Hochstein seemed to be the ideal backup who was capable of playing all three interior line spots, but Belichick explained even though the youngster was let go on Sunday doesn't mean he, or someone else, won't be back.
"We definitely kept less on the offensive line than some teams probably will," Belichick said. "Russ showed some versatility late in the preseason but we're only carrying eight linemen. At some point, we're definitely going to have to add someone because there's no way we can go the whole year with only eight."
The Patriots also have guard Stephen Neal (shoulder) and tackle Kenyatta Jones (knees) on the physically unable to perform list and could potentially have both back after Week Six. But Belichick said their uncertainty made it impossible for them to factor into the decision to keep only eight and all indications point toward an addition or two being made before either is ready to return.
The Patriots made some other tweaks to the roster, moving injured running back Michael Cloud to the reserved/suspended list as he serves his four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Cloud underwent calf surgery during training camp and is recovering, but will still be allowed to serve the suspension as he recuperates. He would be eligible to return to the roster for Week Five, if healthy. At that point, the team would need to make a roster move to make room for Cloud.
Also, Conaty, who was placed on injured reserve on Aug. 26, reached an injury settlement with the team and was granted his release. In a Boston Globe article on Aug. 27, Conaty expressed the desire to play elsewhere in he could arrange his release from the Patriots, which was the case.