When the most compelling issue heading into final cuts surrounds who will be the fifth and sixth receivers, which reserve offensive linemen will make the final 53 and how many corners the team will keep, that's a good sign. It means there are no major holes that need to be filled by players on the bubble.
The Patriots did indeed keep six receivers on the final 53-man roster, but former Chicago Bear David Terrell and second-year man P.K. Sam were not among the six. Instead, it was Deion Branch, David Givens, Troy Brown, Bethel Johnson, Tim Dwight and Andre' Davis making the cut.
!()The competition for spots at that position was intense and Terrell had to know he was in trouble when the team dealt a fifth round pick to Cleveland for Davis. Of the players truly fighting for the last two spots, Sam and Terrell were the only two without any kick or punt return experience.
Beyond that pair, the biggest surprise cuts had to be defensive lineman Rodney Bailey and maybe linebacker Eric Alexander and tight end Jed Weaver, although the latter two faced stiff competition.
Bailey's roster spot had to go to rookie undrafted free agent Mike Wright, who came out of nowhere to have a strong summer and unexpectedly win a roster spot. He received increase reps as the summer progressed and played early in games against opponents' first units while also being featured on special teams. It was noteworthy that the 295-pound defensive tackle that will likely back up Vince Wilfork on the nose, was used to cover kickoffs, a sign that he is quite athletic for a bigger player.
Weaver had a solid camp, but just wasn't ahead of Daniel Graham, Benjamin Watson or Christian Fauria on the depth chart. Alexander also came on of late, but was squeezed out of a deep position group.
The offensive line battle left Gene Mruczkowski on the outside looking in while Brandon Gorin, Nick Kaczur and Russ Hochstein secured backup spots. When Hochstein started at center against the Giants, it was an indication that he would make the club because he is the only reserve with experience at guard and center. Mruczkowski also played both spots, but simply didn't outperform Hochstein.
Only one defensive back was let go, which leaves the Patriots deep at both corner and safety. The corners on the final roster include Randall Gay, Asante Samuel, Duane Starks, Ellis Hobbs, Chad Scott and Tyrone Poole while the safeties include Rodney Harrison, Eugene Wilson, Guss Scott and James Sanders.
None of those players was expected to be let go, although Chad Scott played his way onto the roster this summer. There seemed an outside shot that Starks could be in trouble given that he didn't distinguish himself before being injured in the preseason opener. But his proven playmaking ability and the fact that New England dealt a third round pick to the Cardinals for him kept him safe.
Here is an alphabetical look of the 17 players released today to get to the final 53-man roster:
Linebacker Eric Alexander, defensive lineman Rodney Bailey, running back Kory Chapman, wideout Bam Childress, fullback Kyle Eckel, tight end Joel Jacobs, guard Victor Leyva, guard Gene Mruczkowski, tackle Jeff Roehl, wideout P.K. Sam, linebacker Grant Steen, defensive lineman Tom Sverchek, wideout David Terrell, linebacker Andre Torrey, safety Raymond Ventrone, tight end Jed Weaver and guard Billy Yates.