Patriots take shape after roster shuffle
The dust has begun to settle after the Patriots motored through more than 20 roster moves in three days. When they were done, the Patriots released 23 players, put one on injured reserve, picked up two via trade, and claimed another off waivers.
On the surface, the number of players the Patriots are carrying at each position doesn’t vary much from last season. But the depth and quality are different. The defense has taken the hardest hit in the preseason with injuries and the impact is clear based on the players left behind. At cornerback, the Patriots are carrying five players into Week 1 and not one among the group has more than three years of experience.
With Leigh Bodden and his eight seasons of NFL experience on injured reserve with a shoulder ailment, the Patriots are left with Jonathan Wilhite and Terrence Wheatley as the elder statesmen of the group, in their third seasons. First-round draft pick Devin McCourty is a rookie, while Kyle Arrington and Darius Butler are in their second seasons.
Defensively, the Patriots kept seven linemen, nine linebackers, and four safeties. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Zoltan Mesko, and long snapper Jake Ingram are the only specialists at their positions.
Offensively, the Patriots went with Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer as the only two quarterbacks for the second straight season. They also are carrying six receivers, five running backs, three tight ends, and 10 linemen. The offensive line includes Quinn Ojinnaka, who is suspended for the first game.
The tight end position has been overhauled from last season. Veteran Alge Crumpler leads the group that could create scoring chances, with rookies Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, who combined to catch five touchdowns in the preseason.
Among the players the Patriots are carrying, three are undrafted rookie free agents in Kyle Love, Dane Fletcher, and Steve Maneri.
The Patriots released linebacker Tyrone McKenzie, parting ways with the second-year player after he missed the 2009 season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
The Patriots selected McKenzie in the third round of the 2009 draft out of South Florida. He returned from the injury this year hoping to make an impression, but saw little playing time in key situations during preseason games.
McKenzie’s release wasn’t the only move of the day. The Patriots claimed Maneri, an offensive tackle, off waivers from the Texans. Maneri is a rookie who played tight end most of his career at Temple, starting 25 of his 45 games at the position in his four-year college career. He caught 38 passes for 421 yards and nine touchdowns for the Owls. The Texans signed Maneri, who is 6 feet 6 inches and 290 pounds, in May as an undrafted free agent.
The Patriots also made Saturday’s trades official, acquiring safety Jarrad Page from Kansas City and linebacker Tracy White from Philadelphia for undisclosed draft considerations.
Page, 6-0, 225 pounds, was drafted by Kansas City out of UCLA in 2006. He has 204 tackles and 10 interceptions in his NFL career. Page was frustrated in Kansas City and asked to be traded after last season, and did not participate in the preseason. On Friday, the Chiefs announced Page signed his restricted free agent tender.
White, 6-0, 234 pounds, is entering his eighth season. He has made a career out of his fine special teams play, notching 94 tackles. He led the Eagles with 18 special teams stops last season.
The Patriots’ practice squad also started to take shape yesterday. Receiver Darnell Jenkins, linebacker Shawn Crable, safety Sergio Brown, and offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger will join the squad.
Coach Bill Belichick was asked Friday about the progress of Ohrnberger and Brown.
“I’d say both of them, there are things they need to keep working on and I think they are improving and have improved,’’ he said, “but there is still a lot of football and a lot of our scheme and our system that they haven’t . . . they don’t have as much experience. When they do have more, it will be better.’’
Monique Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.