The football season hasn’t even arrived yet, but the madness, particularly from a personnel perspective, has already started for the New England Patriots.
On Tuesday, the team had to beat the deadline for trimming their 80-man roster down to 53 players, and then Wednesday was the deadline to get in waiver claims for practice squad players.
Cut days are never easy with even coach Bill Belichick himself admitting the process weighed heavily on him emotionally. However, now that all of that ugly business is in the rearview, Belichick and the team can finally shift focus to their season-opener against the Miami Dolphins in South Beach on September 11.
Here are four takeaways for the Patriots now that their roster is finally settled.
The 2020 NFL draft wasn't a failure but...
The Patriots stepped to the plate and seemingly knocked it out of the park at the 2020 NFL draft with Kyle Dugger, Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings, who is healthy and finally starting to come on this year.
But that doesn’t erase the fact that they really stunk it up in the third round with the double dip at tight end on Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene.
Sure, no one expected it to have the impact that Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez had back in 2010, but there was hope that the team would get at least one legitimate offensive contributor out of the pair. But it never came to fruition.
Both Keene and Asiasi didn’t even make the 53-man roster this year. Asiasi was probably coming back on the practice squad, but he got claimed by the Cincinnati Bengals. According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, he was actually at Gillette Stadium for practice before hearing the news.
The Bengals have claimed TE Devin Asiasi, who was present at Gillette Stadium ready to join the NE practice squad.
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) August 31, 2022
The Patriots are now down to Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith as their primary tight ends with Jaylen Wydermeyer and Matt Sokol waiting in the wings on the practice squad.
Luck was on the Patriots' side
It’s pretty crazy to think that Asiasi was the only player for the Patriots that got claimed on waivers.
After hearing the news of Tuesday’s cuts, fans were obviously sickened by the thought of rookie defensive tackle LaBryan Ray, along with wideouts Tre Nixon and Lil’Jordan Humphrey, being claimed by another team. Not only did the Patriots get to hold onto those players, but they also managed to stash all-purpose running back J.J. Taylor on the practice squad as well.
It should be considered a lucky break for the Patriots that they managed to keep most of the key players they ended up cutting. On Thursday, they somehow even managed to snag former Las Vegas Raiders and Miami Dolphins receiver Lynn Bowden Jr.
Say what you want about the team’s shaky offseason, but they made off pretty well during cut week.
Youth movement in full swing
Versatility has long been Belichick’s favorite song and dance, but you can’t say the same about youth. The Patriots head coach has always had a low tolerance for a lack of experience and ability to adhere to the finer details, which is why his rosters tend to run a bit long in the tooth.
But things will obviously be changing in 2022.
The Patriots are focusing more on their young core group of players. They already have a bunch of young skilled players to go along with their second-year quarterback, Mac Jones.
Now, on the defensive side of the ball, the focus is on a young group with emerging leaders like Christian Barmore and Josh Uche behind Matthew Judon. The team also has a bunch of young, promising defensive backs with players like Jack Jones, Marcus Jones, Joshuah Bledsoe and Kyle Dugger.
Is this roster good enough to compete?
The roster is finally set for the Patriots, and we’re nearly a week away from seeing if it’s truly capable of competing. Forget the Super Bowl. Forget the AFC Championship. Forget the playoffs, period.
Can the Patriots even compete in the AFC East division?
Reality is beginning to set in for a franchise that enjoyed nearly two decades of being on top. But now the Buffalo Bills are the runaway favorites in the division, and the Miami Dolphins are turning heads as a serious dark horse team.
The defensive pieces are intriguing for the Patriots, but it’s also a young unit that could have some serious growing pains. They’ll need to lean heavily on veteran standouts like Judon and Devin McCourty to show them the way.
And the offense is one big question mark.
The team still hasn’t settled on an offensive coordinator, and the unit is struggling to implement their new zone running scheme effectively. There’s confusion along the offensive front, running backs are getting stood up in the backfield and quarterback Mac Jones is running for his life.
That goes without mentioning another disappointing wide receivers room that won’t even have rookie Tyquan Thornton for up to eight weeks. The Patriots are either going to prove a lot of people wrong, or the wheels are going to fall off this year.