We’re in for a bit of a weird one Thursday night. With NFL rosters still at 90 players for week four (instead of 75 in previous years), teams have even more flexibility to play their scrubs who will be on the street within 48 hours of leaving the Gillette Stadium field turf.
Still, the Patriots’ depth players looked pretty atrocious against the Lions, leaving the door open for some roster battles that will likely play out against the Giants. On my recent 53-man roster I saw only 48 spots that looked like locks to me. That leaves five roster spots to be won, or to be filled with other team’s castoffs or trades over the long weekend.
Yes, things are still as fluid as they get in terms of NFL roster management.
Let’s take a closer look at where some of the final roster battles will be playing out, and five specific areas where roster spots could be won or lost.
- Young Weaponry — After Julian Edelman went down it opened up another roster spot, but will the Patriots fill it with a young weapon already in house? I’m not sure. The prime candidates are Austin Carr, Devin Lucien and DJ Foster. Carr has been a fan favorite since his impossible touchdown catch in week one of the preseason. Lucien spent a year on the practice squad and seems to be more of an underneath receiver like Edelman. Those two factors could give him a leg up on Carr. Foster’s listed as a running back, but had time as a receiver in college so he’s another versatile piece who’s got a year on the team under his belt. It really could come down to Carr vs. Lucien for one spot and both should play a ton of snaps against the Giants. Those will be two fun players to focus on.
- Tackle — LaAdrian Waddle should dress for this one, as should Cam Fleming, who I see as close to a lock right now. I expect they’ll be the tackles for the first half if not further. More than anything this is about a) feeling better about Fleming at left tackle and b)seeing if Waddle deserves a spot since Tony Garcia hasn’t been seen in weeks. I don’t feel great about Nate Solder being in and out of the lineup/practice all summer. If he goes down, everything gets really dicey. I know they’ll manage him with kids gloves, but getting some strong play out of the backup tackles will be reassuring.
- Justin Coleman — I think Coleman can play, despite an up and down preseason. But he’s hanging by a string and with Edelman out it would appear Cyrus Jones is now a lock at least for his punt return skills. Is there another roster spot for Coleman? A good game from him could win then coaches over to keeping him as the sixth corner. Jonathan Jones saw slot time early in the summer but has faded out of that picture and back to a special teams role that should still make him a lock.
- Jacoby Brissett — Brissett hasn’t gotten any extended action this summer but hasn’t blown anyone away with his development in those limited opportunities. Many are now projecting him as a cut, which isn’t totally unbelievable. Brissett should get his most extensive action of the preseason in this one and a poor performance could strengthen the case that he’s not necessary. He still has practice squad eligibility but that’s obviously a risk. A strong night from him could cement his spot just because it might scare the Pats that it would put him on other team’s radars.
- James O’Shaughnessy — O’Shaughnessy has his fans and the Patriots wouldn’t have traded for him during the draft if they didn’t see something in him, but I still think there’s no guarantee the Pats keep a third tight end. His fate could be tied to the Austin Carr/Devin Lucien competition, and it appears he’s ahead of Jacob Hollister at least. Gronk has played this preseason but he’s not playing against the Giants. O’Shaughnessy and Hollister will see plenty of time and a roster spot could hang in the balance.