Patriots cut into LB depth

Burgess, Woods among 20 released

D. BURGESS 5 sacks in ’09 D. BURGESS
5 sacks in ’09
By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / September 5, 2010

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The Patriots made a flurry of roster moves yesterday, releasing 20 players, placing yet another key defensive player on injured reserve, and reportedly trading for two others.

Among the more notable players waived were linebackers Derrick Burgess, Pierre Woods, and Eric Alexander, and special teams ace Sam Aiken. Safety Brandon McGowan was placed on IR with a torn pectoral muscle and will be out for the season.

Also, the Philadelphia Eagles announced that they traded linebacker/special teamer Tracy White to the Patriots for a 2012 conditional draft pick, and ESPN reported that New England acquired disgruntled Kansas City safety Jarrad Page for a draft pick.

All teams were required to trim their active rosters to 53 players by yesterday, so with nearly 700 players hitting the open market, New England may add to its roster and cut more players.

To say that Burgess was a disappointment would be an understatement. After being acquired from the Raiders for two draft picks, he had just five sacks last season (after totaling 35 from 2005-07) and didn’t report to training camp this year until after the first preseason game. He stepped into a starting spot on the outside opposite Tully Banta-Cain upon his arrival.

Aiken, Alexander, and Woods were all core special teams players, with Aiken serving as the unit’s captain last season. But it looked as though Aiken’s days were numbered when second-year safety Patrick Chung spent nearly all of training camp as the personal protector on punts, a job Aiken had held.

Woods, one of the Patriots’ top tacklers on special teams in recent years, was capable of taking snaps at outside linebacker, a position that is thin this year.

A former undrafted rookie, Alexander had spent six years on the roster. He had one career start, in the 2006 AFC title game.

The other 16 players released were rookie safety Sergio Brown, tight ends Carson Butler and Rob Myers; running backs Thomas Clayton and Chris Taylor; receivers Buddy Farnham (from Brown), Darnell Jenkins, and Rod Owens; quarterback Zac Robinson; defensive backs Ross Ventrone and DeAngelo Willingham; linebacker Thomas Williams; and offensive linemen Rich Ohrnberger, Ted Larsen, George Bussey, and Thomas Welch, all drafted within the last two years.

The loss of McGowan stings a bit: The safety had shown he could cover tight ends fairly well and also had worked quite a bit in the big nickel role, dropping down into the box. New England’s secondary had already lost top corner Leigh Bodden for the year with a torn rotator cuff, and defensive end Ty Warren (hip) was placed on injured reserve in mid-August.

New England acquired a player with a similar skill set to Woods’s in White. The eighth-year player is known more for his work on special teams, and was to be released by Philadelphia before being traded.

Listed at 6 feet, 225 pounds, Page finally gets his wish to leave Kansas City. A fifth-year player, Page signed his restricted free agent tender Friday, paving the way for a trade. He played in just five games last season, with 19 tackles and a forced fumble, but started 16 games in 2008, recording 85 tackles, 4 interceptions, 12 pass breakups, and 2 forced fumbles.

There were some positive surprises as well: Matthew Slater remains after missing much of training camp with what appeared to be a lower left leg injury; linebacker Marques Murrell may play a bigger role than just special teams; and undrafted rookies Dane Fletcher, a linebacker, and Kyle Love, a defensive lineman, made the roster.

For the second year in a row, the Patriots kept the same five running backs: Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris, Fred Taylor, Kevin Faulk, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

Nick Kaczur still has not been placed on injured reserve despite a back injury that required surgery, so the team must be holding out hope that he will be able to return this year.

The Patriots will temporarily be allowed to carry 54 players with offensive lineman Quinn Ojinnaka suspended for Week 1.

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