If you can believe it, the start of the NFL season is just over five weeks away.
It feels like the New England Patriots just reported for training camp, and now we have a full preseason slate to look forward this weekend.
While camp does wonders in terms of separating impact players from the roster bubble and practice squad players, the preseason will only help paint a clearer picture.
At this point in the offseason, we like to think Bill Belichick has a good idea in terms of who he wants on the roster. As we’ve seen during his two-decade tenure, however, the longtime head coach is just as renowned as anyone for making cutthroat decisions.
Given that the Patriots have an elite blend of veteran and young talent, Belichick could end up making a lot of players unhappy when it’s time to make roster cuts.
You know where this is going, right? Let’s get crazy and dive into a prediction of some of the biggest names who could be left on the outside looking in by Aug. 31.
Which big-name Patriots players won’t make the 53-man roster?
You know how this works, folks. The Patriots will be forced to cut five players loose by Aug. 17 after their first preseason game. Another five will come off the board after the second week of preseason by Aug. 24, and the final round of cuts will arrive following the final preseason game, when rosters must be trimmed to the league-mandated 53 players by Aug. 31.
So, without further ado, first up we have…
There’s bound to be a shake up at the running back position, no? Damien Harris is the lead candidate for the starting job. While the Patriots could end up keeping Michel as insurance for Harris, who’s dealt with injuries over his first two seasons, we like to think they’ll try to find a trade partner for the 2018 first-rounder between now and the roster deadline.
If Michel gets the axe, look for the versatile JJ Taylor to take his spot.
There’s also a scenario in which the Patriots keep Michel on the roster. The fourth-year RB has been a full participant at training camp for the first time in his career, and the consensus buzz indicates he looks elusive and has improved as a receiver out of the backfield. .
If Michel sticks around while New England looks to bolster his trade value before the deadline, veteran Brandon Bolden could be the odd man out. Though he’s a valuable contributor on special teams, the Pats didn’t skip a beat in that department in 2020 when he opted out.
In this scenario, the Patriots could role with Harris, Michel, Rhamondre Stevenson and James White on the active roster, while stashing Taylor on the practice squad.
Jennings’ versatility could end up saving his bacon, but the 2020 third-rounder hasn’t popped enough at camp to warrant a spot on the 53-man roster.
As a rookie, Jennings played just 29% of the defensive snaps. That was when the Patriots were depleted at the linebacker position. Now, however, he finds himself part of a loaded group that features Dont’a Hightower, Matt Judon, Kyle Van Noy and Josh Uche, among others.
Jennings might luck out with Chase Winovich still on the physically unable to perform list and Raekwon McMillan being lost for the year with a torn ACL, but don’t be surprised if the 24-year-old begins the year on the practice squad as he looks to break into the first team.
One of the most polarizing Patriots players in recent memory, N’Keal Harry looks like a player reborn at training camp…after he requested a trade through his agent, bizarrely enough.
While Harry is focused on helping New England win games, he hasn’t walked back the trade request and something tells us the franchise will try to unload him before the regular season. That doesn’t necessarily qualify as a cut, but it sure qualifies as being left off the 53-man roster.
It’s just tough to imagine Belichick keeping a player who went public about not wanting to be a part of the team, regardless of whether he could be a potential impact player.
That about does it, folks. If there are going to be any surprise cuts, expect them to come at the running back, linebacker and wide receiver positions.