The Patriots got a jump on cutdown weekend with two reported trades on Friday as they began to make a number of tough roster decisions that must happen by Saturday at 4pm. It is just the start of what is always a fascinating and often surprising weekend.
Here's more on the trades, some film review quick hits and notable bits from Bill Belichick's press conference.
Per NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, the Patriots traded Duke Dawson to the Broncos in a swap of late-round picks. Dawson was firmly on the bubble all summer, buried by Jonathan Jones at slot cornerback. With many projecting Dawson to be cut, it's good the team was able to get something for the 2018 second-rounder. It's an unfortunate end for such a high-round pick, but Dawson got hurt last season and never seemed to regain his footing. Perhaps a fresh start in Denver will help him get back on track.
Mike Reiss reported the deal was Dawson and a 2020 seventh-round pick for a 2020 sixth-round pick.
Update - 12:34pm EST
Adam Schefter is reporting that the Patriots have also traded for Bills center Russell Bodine. A five-year veteran, Bodine spent his first four years in Cincinnati and last year with the Bills, where he started 10 games. Buried on the depth chart in Buffalo, Bodine has 74 career starts and is still just 27-years-old. This will add competition to the position that was hit this week with the loss of starter David Andrews. Though some were holding out hope Andrews might be able to return this season, the acquisition of Bodine might be an ominous sign. This now makes three trades for offensive linemen in three days for the Pats. Bodine will provide depth and could press Ted Karras for the starting job.
Update - 2:47pm
Here's the first round of cuts as collected by Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal. No major surprises but David Parry was one player who stood out at nose tackle in the last two games, especially against the Giants. More to come...
During the regular season we'll have a full film review but for the preseason here are just some quick hits of note on the bubble and potential impact players who will make the 53-man roster on the re-watch.
- It's hard not to like what Keion Crossen did in this game, as he was likely playing for a job. A lot of players would've folded after giving up a long touchdown pass and the look on Crossen's face afterward said it all. But he bounced back and made multiple plays on the ball, including an impressive toe-tap interception. The reaction from the sideline after that said it all. When the team rallies around a player like that you have to keep him around. While Dawson was sent out of town, Crossen looks like he'll stick.
- I left the re-watch feeling even better about Demaryius Thomas and slightly less good about Josh Gordon. Both had their down moments but Thomas looked better than you'd expect a player who just came off a major injury to look. Gordon's size and athleticism are almost unfair, but can he take it all back up to another level? His drop on a slant, where it looked like he might've been avoiding contact, bumped me again. Obviously both players were seeing their first game action since last season so some warts should be expected, but I'd love Gordon to ascend to that 1A level again. Not sure Thomas can get back to that level but at this point even as a solid #2 he'll be important to the offense. Regardless, it would be hard not to feel light years better about this offense than we did in Tennessee.
- You couldn't miss Gunner Olszewski in this game and it was in stark contrast to Jakobi Meyers, who was mostly invisible all night despite playing 78 percent of the offensive snaps. It's difficult to tell what Meyers' lackluster finish to the preseason will mean and whether it will cost him a roster spot, but he was trending in the wrong direction. Meanwhile Olszewski played 35 percent of the offensive snaps, 32 percent of the defensive snaps and 57 percent of the special teams snaps. That kind of involvement cannot be ignored.
It has to be one of the most difficult weekends of the NFL season for GMs and coaches, with hard decisions that could make or break not only this season, but seasons in the future. In his Friday morning press conference Coach Belichick laid out how much there is to take into account.
"It's kind of like this at this time of the year, every year. You take all the things into consideration that you possibly can and just try to make the best decisions for your team. There's a lot of considerations, long term, short term, depth, next game, games later in the year, next year. Just try to do the best you can to balance it out. You can't do it all so each decision has a consequence or some kind of residual. There's always good arguments for doing things one way or the contrary point of view. In the end you just have to figure out what's best for the team."
Gunner Olszewski was all over the place in the last preseason game, making catches, returning kicks and punts, even playing some cornerback. He's now in the conversation for a potential roster spot, a long climb from where the former division 2 cornerback started out.
"He's very competitive," said Coach Belichick. "He works hard and he's improved. He has a long way to go but he's made a lot of improvement. Made a big jump from where he played to where he's playing now positionally and so forth. He's improved a great deal."
Finally, Belichick was asked about the two new additions along the offensive line – Jermaine Eluemanor and Korey Cunningham.
"Two players who both played multiple spots and we haven't had them on the field yet. We'll put them out there and start working with them this week and see how it goes. I'm not sure exactly how it will work out, we'll just really have to wait and see as we move into it with them, who knows it might change from where it is at the beginning, it might change at a later point in time. I'm not sure."