The Patriots cut their roster down to 75 players yesterday afternoon as defensive lineman Anthony Rashad White and tight end Evan Landi were the final victims as the Pats had to get the roster down to 75 players. Most of the attention concerning the Patriots and who they cut or don’t cut has been surrounding the circus that is Tim Tebow. He survived the first major round of cuts, and that puts him one step closer to making the final 53 man roster. Owner Robert Kraft said he is “rooting for” Tebow to make the team, but he added that the final decision is up to Bill Belichick.
This Patriots team is a little unique from previous squads because it seems that we know for the most part who will and will not be cut in the coming days (although with Belichick at the helm you never know). However I still think that there are a number of “surprise cuts” out there, and I will detail who I think may be the victim of these surprise cuts, and why they may find themselves without a job in New England.
1. Adrian Wilson
Watching Wilson throughout this preseason has been tough for me. First of all, I am a big fan of Wilson and I thought that him being on the team this year would bring about major rewards for the Pats because of his veteran presence in the back end, and the physicality he brings to the field. But over the last few weeks it seems that he has found himself looking up at the likes of Steve Gregory on the depth chart. He played well into the third and fourth quarters of their last two preseason games and that is never a good sign, especially for a guy that seemed like a lock for a roster spot only four or five weeks ago. Personally, I would keep Wilson on the roster if I were the Pats. I believe he is a big upgrade over Gregory, and his overall skill-set could benefit them in a great way as the season progresses. But that may not be how the Pats view him and Gregory. Perhaps they feel that Gregory would be the better option at this point, and if that is the case then Wilson may be gone.
2. Brandon Spikes
I know that is what you are thinking, and you probably want to exit this article right now because of the ridiculous player I just named to be a surprise Patriots cut.
But here me out on this one.
Brandon Spikes is one of the best, if not the best run stopping middle-linebacker in the entire National Football League. His combination of strength, explosion towards the ball, and overall enthusiasm towards the game makes him a dangerous backer. But a known weakness of his, is his speed and quickness, and this hinders his ability to cover tight ends and running backs across the middle. He makes average tight ends look like the next Rob Gronkowski with the way he covers them. It does not matter what type of route they run, whether it is a seam route, or a simple crossing route, he rarely makes a solid play in the passing game. He does not possess the straight line speed to cover them effectively, and his agility can’t compete with the quickness of the running backs in this league.
It today’s NFL, teams throw the football a lot more than they run it. Receivers are getting bigger and faster, and it seems that quarterbacks are just getting better and better at delivering the ball where it needs to be. Because of this, the value of run stopping linebackers like Spikes, is rapidly decreasing. Now guys like rookie Jamie Collins, who is extremely athletic, can cover tight ends from sideline to sideline, and has a tremendous upside on the run stuffing front, are now sought after. The combination of decreased need for players like Spikes, and the rise of rookie Jamie Collins is why I feel that Spikes may be a surprise cut in the coming days in Foxboro.
3. Leon Washington
Washington has been one of the most prolific kick returners over the last few years with the Seattle Seahawks. He totaled four touchdowns in his stint with Seattle, and that is one of the main reasons why the Patriots picked him up this offseason. The Patriots kick return unit has ranked close to the bottom of the league for quite awhile, and they thought that bringing Washington in would help boost this unit’s production tremendously. However he hasn’t displayed the same explosiveness that he showed while in Seattle. In fact, in the Pats third preseason contest against the Detroit Lions, it was Matthew Slater and LeGarrette Blount taking back the kicks to start the game instead of Washington. That is a possible sign that Belichick and company don’t value Washington enough to keep him on the final roster. They may elect to keep Brandon Bolden on the squad instead of Washington to make room for depth in areas they really need it in (defensive tackle, cornerback). The impact that Washington has had on the offensive side of the ball throughout his career has not been very good, he was only effective in his early years with the New York Jets. Over the last four or five seasons, he has been mostly regulated to special teams with the Seahawks. The Pats are loaded at running back, and they may not think that he is worth a spot on their final 53 man roster.