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Road to 53: Final version

Posted by Greg A. Bedard  August 31, 2012 02:33 AM

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Welcome to Cutdown Day.

Each team has to pare down its roster by 9 p.m. I would say about half the cuts will become known during the day, and then rest will be held in limbo until right before the deadline. Teams don't like to allow other teams to get a jump on research about some of their cuts, especially the players the team would like to re-sign to the practice squad.

Watched every single public practice. I've looked at my notes. Broke down all the exhibition games. And I still don't have 98 percent of the information the Patriots are going on, especially injury reports and coaches film. This is all guess work. Let's take a swing.

After serious deliberations, I have come up with the 53-man roster I think the Patriots the will select. It's not the 53 I would necessarily pick, but what I think they will do.

You'll notice that I have removed right guard Brian Waters from this version of the 53-man roster and kept him on reserve/did not report. While I still believe he will report at some point, my optimism has dipped from about 75 percent previously to 50 percent based on some new, not completely verified, information. Waters could report today. It could be a few days. He could not report at all. I really don't have much clarity on the topic.

With that being said, here's my cutdown day 53-man roster, which is sure to be wrong even before the Patriots start claiming guys, which they normally do.

Key: Players in CAPS are rookies. Players in red lettering have known injury issues presently. Players in purple are my projected game-day inactives right now. (Click on the pictures for full versions)

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  1. Dan Koppen, C: I have a hard time believing that Bill Belichick would wait until cutdown day to release a universally respected veteran such as Koppen. That would not be right. If Koppen had designs on continuing to play, you release him around the 75-man cutdown. That's the one caveat. Belichick and Koppen might well have come to an agreement on this. If Koppen did not want to play anywhere else, then he could have told Belichick to do what he has to do and if the Patriots don't want him, then he'll retire. In lieu of that, he's Waters/Logan Mankins insurance. I personally don't think he has much left, even after an uptick about halfway through camp. He regressed a bit at the end and looks like he is at or nearing the line.
  2. Brandon Bolden, RB: Really like the undrafted Ole Miss product. Tough, decent quickness, reminds so much of BenJarvus Green-Ellis. I would prefer to get him through to the practice squad. I asked an NFL executive about whether Bolden would get claimed. "50-50. A few teams out there needs RBs. My threshold is you keep a guy as a player 51-53 if you're going to be real disappointed losing him," he said. If Bolden got claimed, would it be the end of the world? You wouldn't think so or else what are you doing with Shane Vereen? You have four running backs ahead of Bolden who should get the majority of the playing time this year and for the foreseeable future. But I don't know how the Patriots feel about Vereen's future and health. So Bolden sticks for now but could go with a claim.
  3. James Ihedigbo, S: It's not so much the injury to Chung that's keeping Ihedigbo around for me. It's that he still shows up on a lot of special teams and, quite frankly, I don't want to see Chung on anymore special teams because of his durability issues. Keep another safety if it helps keep Chung on the field. Another guy that could go if needed.
  4. Alfonzo Dennard, CB: After finally getting to see more of him the past two weeks, I'm intrigued enough to keep him around and declare him inactive every week with an eye on 2013.
  5. Trevor Scott, DE: Am I blown away by his skills? No. He's limited in the pass rush, although he's surprisingly good against the run (Don't ask me why he can disengage from blockers against the run, but not the pass rush. A lot of his pressures come from hustle and plays that are extended). But his production can't be denied. And, really, it came to this for me -- if injuries hit the DE position, are you going to be OK with Jake Bequette and/or Justin Francis playing a lot? Me neither. Where have you gone Andre Carter?


  1. Justin Francis, DE: I know the Patriots really like this guy, he has been very productive and how can you go wrong with another Rutgers guy? But his production has come against backups and retreads. He has no special teams ability. And I don't see a big line for him on the waiver wire, although I wouldn't discount it. Can't you find other guys like this? If he were a little taller, I would be more interested. Release him now, and pay him a lot to come back to the practice squad if you like him that much. And if you like him more than that and think he has legit pass-rush ability, then why keep both Cunningham and Scott around?
  2. Nick McDonald, C/G/T: Another guy the Patriots like, or at least they did at the end of last year. And his positional versatility would be great to have around -- if he could really play any of those positions. The Packers kept McDonald inactive his entire rookie season because they liked his potential. And then they released him last year when they knew veteran Scott Wells could leave in free agency after the season, which he did. McDonald tantalizes with his talent and nasty edge, but when you get past that, he's just not good enough to keep around and his pad level is not good. Not one time has he stood out.
  3. Visanthe Shiancoe, TE: Definitely tempting to keep him on the 53-man roster and then move him to the new in-season injured reserve. But a) you're going to have to cut someone now, b) we don't know how bad his knee is, and c) since he's missed so much time, we don't even know if he can comprehend the Patriots' playbook (that's been a little bit of an issue in the past). It's either Shiancoe or Daniel Fells. I'd rather go with the guy we know can perform in this system.
  4. Sergio Brown/Malcolm Williams, DBs: Surprise, surprise. Look, neither of these guys can play a lick on defense but they are really good on special teams. Is that enough to keep one over CB Sterling Moore, who after being really good for about six weeks, looks like he took a step back the past two? Not in my opinion.
  5. Jeremy Ebert, WR: Always tough to cut draft picks, even a seventh-rounder, and while I like what he brings and his potential, are you going to keep him over Deion Branch or Julian Edelman right now? I think the answer is a firm no. Should be able to get him to the practice squad and take another look next year.
News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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