AFC East: Markus Zusevics

Patriots eligible for practice squad

August, 31, 2013
8/31/13
5:00
AM ET
Later today, the New England Patriots will finalize the first iteration of their 53-man roster. But the player puzzle doesn’t end there, as the team will begin constructing its practice squad, which can be up to eight players, on Sunday.

It would be no surprise for the Patriots to bring aboard players waived by other teams as members of their practice squad, but the unit will also likely include players waived by the team Saturday.

Below is a look at all current Patriots who still have practice-squad eligibility:

P Ryan Allen
DT Armond Armstead (on reserve/PUP)
LB Steve Beauharnais
DE Jake Bequette
WR Josh Boyce
DE Michael Buchanan
LB Jamie Collins
LB Ja'Gared Davis
S Kanorris Davis
WR Aaron Dobson
DT Marcus Forston
DB Justin Green
DT Cory Grissom (on injured reserve)
S Duron Harmon
WR Mark Harrison (on reserve/PUP)
G Josh Kline
C/G Chris McDonald
CB Logan Ryan
WR Quentin Sims
TE Zach Sudfeld
LB Jeff Tarpinian
WR Kenbrell Thompkins
DT Joe Vellano
RB George Winn
OL Markus Zusevics (on injured reserve)
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A few thoughts on today's roster moves by the Patriots:

1. The team now has 77 players on the roster. Two more moves must be made by Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET.

2. Tim Tebow survives ... for now. This is one of the notable storylines of the week, as it appears that Tebow is fighting for a job. Bill Belichick told 98.5 The Sports Hub before last Thursday's preseason game that he had about 80 percent of the 53-man roster set. Tebow, based on his performance in the preseason, would seemingly be part of the other 20 percent, which means Thursday night's preseason finale against the Giants could be big for him.

3. None of the moves are a surprise. A player like veteran linebacker Niko Koutouvides, whose primary contributions come as a core special-teamer, could always return during the season if the need arises (similar to last year).

4. With defensive tackle Armond Armstead landing on the reserve/non-football illness list, he isn't eligible to start practicing until after the sixth week of the season. So this adds a little more context as to where things stand with his health after he had surgery for an infection at some point before training camp. He remains under contract to the Patriots but won't count against the roster. The Patriots had been counting on Armstead to be a big part of their plans and depth remains thin behind starters Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly.

5. Rookie defensive tackle Cory Grissom (South Florida) was a strong practice squad candidate, but with him landing on injured reserve, it opens the door for another rookie tackle to stick on the practice squad (Joe Vellano, Anthony Rashad White the top candidates). It also led to the re-signing of defensive tackle Scott Vallone to the roster to address a depth shortage.

6. At receiver, third-year player Kamar Aiken was competitive early in camp but an injury derailed him. Also, rookies Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce seemed to generate more momentum and were a bit more consistent over the course of camp.

7. We didn't have offensive tackle/guard Markus Zusevics making the final roster, but others did, which reflected his standing as a bubble blocker around No. 8 on the depth chart. There seems to be a pretty big drop-off after the top six or seven offensive linemen so this remains an area the Patriots figure to explore on the waiver wire and free agency.
If there is a silver lining for dealing with an injury to a player, it's that his absence creates an opportunity for one of his teammates.

In the case of Patriots right guard Dan Connolly, who is currently recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, it was Marcus Cannon who was called upon to fill in. A subsequent injury to Cannon opened the door for Markus Zusevics to earn guard reps, and then missed time for Zusevics led to veteran Will Svitek playing on the interior part of the line, rather than his customary tackle spot.

Head coach Bill Belichick recently highlighted Svitek's versatile skill set, noting that he can play either tackle position, a desirable skill set for teams looking to build their line depth.

The Patriots have long valued versatility among their offensive linemen, as there can be several moving parts along the line that force a team to shuffle the deck.

Focusing on the Patriots projected top seven linemen, position versatility is among the common denominators.

Guard Logan Mankins: Belichick said during the 2012 season that he believed Mankins was probably capable of playing any of the five line positions if needed, though Mankins is entrenched at the left guard spot, where he's among the best in the game. He was also a standout left tackle in college at Fresno State.

Center Ryan Wendell: Wendell took over starting center duties for the 2012 season, though he can flex to either guard spot as well. His modest size (6-2, 300) is offset by his technician-like approach and ability to leverage defenders. He's developed into one of the better centers in football.

Tackle Sebastian Vollmer: Another player who has been entrenched in his current spot at right tackle, Vollmer has the requisite skills to swing to left tackle as well. In fact, he was likely the Patriots back-up left tackle last season, though Nate Solder was on the field for virtually every offensive snap.

Tackle Nate Solder: Solder was a chess piece on the line as a rookie, playing at both tackle spots, as an extra lineman, and even getting preseason guards snaps. With his uncommon length and movement skills, playing multiple positions is well within his capabilities.

Guard Dan Connolly: Like Wendell, Connolly has interior line flex. He started at center in 2011 before kicking out to guard last season. As things currently stand, he'd likely be called upon to take over at center if Wendell were to ever suffer an injury.

Guard Marcus Cannon: A college tackle prospect, Cannon seems to be working more at guard these days. That being said, he can still serve as a reserve right tackle, and might be able to play left tackle in a pinch, too.

Tackle Will Svitek: As we said off the top, Svitek has four position versatility, with the tools to swing to either tackle spot and play each guard post as well.

Among the remaining linemen on the roster, we have the best feel for Zusevics, who we've seen at both tackle and guard. The book is still out on Josh Kline, Luke Patterson, Brice Schwab and Chris McDonald, who we've seen in small doses this camp.

The Patriots could keep one or more of these five on the practice squad, or one could also emerge as a surprise keep on the 53-man roster. One has to figure that if any of them stick around, he'll have the versatility to play multiple line spots.

Anticipating Patriots' roster moves

August, 19, 2013
8/19/13
10:07
AM ET
The New England Patriots have three open spots on their 90-man roster, and the expectation is that they will be filled (probably as early as today).

Here are the areas that look like they could use the biggest boost:

1. Offensive line. While Dan Connolly, Marcus Cannon and Markus Zusevics looked like they were getting closer to returns last week, an ankle injury sustained Friday by second-unit right tackle R.J. Mattes might require some reinforcements. Overall, we could see multiple moves at this position -- interior and tackle.

2. Defensive tackle. Quality of depth behind starters Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly remains a question mark.

3. Wide receiver. With just 10 on the roster, that's a bit light compared to the rest of the NFL. But with so many youngsters, getting them game repetitions remains imperative. So it's a balance when considering adding at receiver.

4. Cornerback. The returns of Alfonzo Dennard and Ras-I Dowling would help, and they added LeQuan Lewis late last week, but depth remains thin when two of the top four projected players aren't practicing.

5. Quarterback. Seems unlikely the team would bring in a fourth signal-caller at this point, but No. 3 quarterback Tim Tebow struggled Friday in three primarty areas quarterbacks are evaluated -- accuracy, decision-making and moving the offense/scoring points.

Practice report: Day 3 in Philly

August, 8, 2013
8/08/13
4:05
PM ET
PHILADELPHIA -- The Patriots and Eagles wrapped up their week of joint practices on Thursday, conducting a light workout in helmets and shells with a focus on special teams and situational work.

It was the third joint practice of the week, an experience that both teams seemed to view as productive.

From an attendance standpoint, second-year cornerback Alfonzo Dennard left the field early with strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash. He eventually returned alongside Nash, though he did not participate in drills from that point on. It is unclear the nature of the issue he is dealing with.

The following players were not spotted during the workout: receivers Michael Jenkins and Mark Harrison, cornerback Ras-I Dowling, safety Nate Ebner, tight ends Brandon Ford and Rob Gronkowski, offensive linemen Marcus Cannon, Markus Zusevics, Tyronne Green and Kevin Haslam, and defensive linemen Jermaine Cunningham and Armond Armstead.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. EST on Friday, the first exhibition game for both teams.

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