Film review on Patriots DL Bruce Gaston

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
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The following is a review of what the New England Patriots are getting in defensive lineman Bruce Gaston (claimed on waivers from the Arizona Cardinals) after a film study of him in two preseason games -- against the Houston Texans (week 1) and San Diego Chargers (week 4):

Alignment and style of play: Gaston lined up at nose tackle in the Cardinals' 3-4 defense in the preseason opener and then was mostly at defensive end in the finale. So it looks like he has a little bit of versatility to play different techniques from head up against the tackles to anywhere on the inside. Gaston played on early downs and then came off in sub situations, reflecting his status as more of a two-down run-stuffing type. In the passing game, he's more likely to win with a bull-rush as he is not a dynamic rusher. Gaston is 6-foot-2 and 308 pounds and if there is one thing that made a positive impression, it's playing strength coupled with a bit of nastiness to finish each play (he sometimes threw down the blocker in front of him as the play unfolded).

Areas to improve: In the preseason opener, Gaston struggled to maintain his balance at times when playing head up on the center. On one pass rush, he got too high and was pancaked by Texans center Barrett Jones. He lost his footing on another running play while chasing from behind. Also, late in the fourth quarter against the Chargers, he was turned inside in a one-on-one situation against left tackle Willie Smith, as a large hole opened and led to a 23-yard-run. If there was a positive to the play, it was that Gaston hustled downfield to make the tackle (one of his six in the game).

Limited work to assess: There wasn't a lot of film to watch because he didn't play in the middle two preseason games, and was on the field sparingly in the opener and then in the second half of the finale. That made me think the Patriots' interest in claiming Gaston might have gone back to the pre-draft process (Gaston was a captain at Purdue), because there wasn't overwhelming performance on tape from the preseason to spark a waiver claim.

Plays that stood out: The Chargers blew a blitz pickup with just less than 12 minutes to play in the game and Gaston came surging in between the left guard and left tackle for a big sack late in the fourth quarter, showing nice explosion as he was unblocked and crunched quarterback Brad Sorensen. ... He disengaged from offensive guard Kenny Wiggins on one running play and dove at running back Brandon Oliver to make the tackle, showing the ability to shed, locate the ball-carrier and make the tackle.

Summary: Gaston wore No. 75 in Arizona, which won't be an option for him in New England because it belongs to Vince Wilfork. But there is a link to Wilfork, because Gaston looks like he could potentially fill Sealver Siliga's role behind Wilfork until Siliga returns to health from a left hand/wrist injury. Gaston is a physical presence at the line of scrimmage who benched 34 times at his pro day and sometimes that strength shows up on the field.

Film review on Patriots DL Kelcy Quarles

September, 1, 2014
Sep 1
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The following is a review of what the New England Patriots are getting in defensive lineman Kelcy Quarles after a film study of him in two preseason games -- against the Indianapolis Colts (19 snaps) and Patriots (30 snaps):

Projects to the interior, has scheme versatility: Quarles mainly played three different techniques in the New York Giants' 4-3 alignment -- head up on the center (0 technique), shaded on the center (1 technique) and shaded on the outside shoulder of the guard (3 technique). He is a physical, strong player with long arms (33 1/4 inches). When he gets his hands into an offensive lineman and extends his arms, he is most effective and shows the ability to control blockers. While he is not a quick-twitch dynamic rusher like first-round draft choice Dominique Easley, he did display short-area quickness, twice penetrating over the left guard's outside shoulder and beating an attempted block down the line of scrimmage from the left tackle. He also showed notable speed (for a player his size) and effort in chasing Colts quarterback Chandler Harnish to the sideline on a scramble.

Areas in which he can improve: No rookie is a finished product, and Quarles sometimes rose high in his stance; when that happened, he was easily blocked. He also picked up three penalties over his 19 snaps against the Colts -- horse-collar tackle (on the play he chased down Harnish), late hit to the quarterback and illegal hands to the face. He won't last long in New England if that becomes the norm.

Plays that stood out: With 8:52 remaining in the fourth quarter against the Patriots, Quarles was jarred back in his pass rush by a strong initial punch from left guard Josh Kline. But he effectively showed the ability to re-start his rush, quickly generating power with his lower body to drive Kline back into the pocket while effectively using his hands and long reach. On the next play, he showed good awareness on an attempted screen (incomplete) before following up on the next snap by pushing Kline into the backfield as the Giants' front got solid penetration and limited running back Roy Finch to a 2-yard gain. That was a nice three-play sequence late in the game when Quarles was likely tiring. ... Later in the fourth quarter, Quarles was too quick for Kline, once again slicing into the offensive backfield on a Jonas Gray run for minus-3 yards.

Context to the evaluation: One of the challenges in evaluating Quarles is that he didn't play against proven top-level competition in the preseason, as he was often in the game in the second half. In the preseason, he played 16 snaps against the Bills in the Hall of Fame Game, was held out of the second game, then followed up with 19 snaps against the Colts, 13 against the Jets and the 30 against the Patriots. The majority of the work we watched came against Kline, rookie center Bryan Stork and the Colts' Thomas Austin (since waived).

Summary: Quarles played well in the preseason finale against the Patriots and our educated guess is that is what sparked the team's waiver claim. Based on that performance, it's hard to believe he went undrafted. Quarles' fit on the New England roster is with the likes of interior players such as Vince Wilfork, Easley, Sealver Siliga, Chris Jones, Joe Vellano and Zach Moore (we're still learning more about waiver claim Bruce Gaston). Each player brings a little something different to the club -- Wilfork and Siliga play bigger against the run, Easley is an athletic pass-rusher, Jones is a slashing 3-technique, while Vellano is a workmanlike technician and Moore is a wild card of sorts who has been lining up all across the front. Quarles would fall somewhere between the Wilfork/Siliga big-against-the-run category and the Jones/3-technique slasher. For a defense that will mix and match combinations, he could be a nice fit. At the least, there is obvious developmental upside.

QB Bethel-Thompson to practice squad

August, 31, 2014
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The trickle-down effect of the New England Patriots trading quarterback Ryan Mallett to the Texans is that the team will now account for the position on its practice squad. McLeod Bethel-Thompson, one of 12 players in for a tryout on Saturday, is joining the Patriots' 10-man practice squad, per ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan.



Bethel-Thompson is a third-year player out of Sacramento State who has been with the Vikings (2012-2013) and 49ers (2013-2014). At 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, he is a bigger player at the position and was with the 49ers this past training camp before being released in the cut to 75 players.

In three preseason games this year, Bethel-Thompson was 11 of 18 for 113 yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2011 and doesn't have any regular-season statistics.

A few other notes relative to the Patriots' practice squad:
  • Wide receiver Josh Boyce cleared waivers and has practice squad eligibility.
  • Linebacker Ja'Gared Davis has agreed to join the practice squad, ESPNBoston.com's Lee Schechter confirmed earlier in the day. Doug Kyed of NESN had initially reported Davis' agreement.
  • Running back Jonas Gray has agreed to join the practice squad, per Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal.
  • One name to keep an eye on is long snapper Charley Hughlett as a possibility for the practice squad. Hughlett was with the Patriots briefly earlier this offseason.

Patriots claim DT Gaston, release LB White

August, 31, 2014
Aug 31
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The New England Patriots claimed rookie defensive tackle Bruce Gaston from the Arizona Cardinals on waivers on Sunday and released linebacker and core special-teamer Chris White to make room on the roster.

The team announced those transactions, in addition to the previously reported moves of claiming rookie defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles and trading quarterback Ryan Mallett to the Texans.

Gaston, who was featured in our "beyond the first round" series leading into the draft as a possible Patriots fit, was a team captain at Purdue who played in 50 games over his college career. The 22-year-old Gaston was originally signed by the Cardinals as an undrafted free agent on May 12.

The 6-foot-2, 310-pound Gaston might have caught the Patriots' eye in the preseason finale when he totaled six tackles and a quarterback hit against the Chargers. Up to that point, Gaston had only played nine defensive snaps over the first three preseason games.

Between Quarles and Gaston, the Patriots are stocking up on young defensive defensive tackles, an area where they already had a deep stable of personnel with Vince Wilfork, Dominique Easley, Chris Jones, Sealver Siliga, Joe Vellano and Zach Moore.

As for White, he played on all four of the team's core special-teams units -- kickoff return, kickoff coverage, punt return and punt coverage. The Patriots are thin in that area, and there could more roster juggling ahead to account for that role.

Patriots claim DL Kelcy Quarles on waivers

August, 31, 2014
Aug 31
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The New England Patriots have claimed New York Giants defensive lineman Kelcy Quarles on waivers today.

Quarles, an undrafted free agent out of South Carolina, tweeted about his new beginning.

The 6-foot-3 3/4, 297-pound Quarles entered the 2014 draft after his junior season. He played in 35 games over his three seasons with the Gamecocks, totaling 9.5 sacks last season, and at one point was viewed as a potential second-round draft pick by analysts before slipping completely out of the draft.

In Thursday's preseason finale between the Patriots and Giants, Quarles played 30 defensive snaps and was credited with two tackles, so the Patriots got a bit of an extended look at him in the game. The Giants had plans to bring Quarles back to their practice squad had the Patriots not claimed him on waivers.

ESPN Insider's draft scouting report on Quarles noted that he has "natural core strength and anchor, and [is] tough to move off the ball when playing with leverage. Flashes the ability to hold ground against double teams. Heavy hands and long arms and uses length to lock out blockers."

The Patriots have veteran Vince Wilfork as their stalwart big defensive tackle, then a group of younger players with upside including first-round pick Dominique Easley, second-year players Chris Jones and Joe Vellano, third-year veteran Sealver Siliga, and perhaps rookie Zach Moore.

Now Quarles is added to the pipeline.

Analysis: Digesting the Ryan Mallett trade

August, 31, 2014
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video
Here are a few points to consider when it comes to the New England Patriots trading quarterback Ryan Mallett to the Houston Texans for a late-round draft choice:

Mallett
Only a late-rounder? That seemed to be the most prevalent Patriots-based question among those immediately digesting the deal. Mallett was drafted in the third round in 2011, so four seasons later, how could he be worth only a late-rounder? The market spoke. This is what we wrote April 6: "There was a time when the Patriots might have felt Mallett could develop into a tradable commodity, but I don’t think it ever generated the momentum the club hoped. So at this point, my feeling is that whatever the club could get in return (projected here as a late-round pick at best) pales in comparison to the value Mallett has on the roster as Tom Brady’s insurance policy." When the Patriots drafted rookie Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round this year and he played well this preseason, it lessened Mallett's value on the roster.

Weighing the value of third QB vs. late-round pick: Given Garoppolo's rise, the question for the Patriots was whether Mallett had more value to them as a No. 3 option on their depth chart or if taking the late-round pick and freeing up a roster spot was the better play. They chose the latter route, which shows their faith in Garoppolo. Mallett was in the final year of his contract and was almost certainly going to sign elsewhere after the 2014 season, so the Patriots could have held on to him and potentially received a later-round 2016 compensatory draft choice when he signed with another team. In this case, they get the pick and immediate roster flexibility.

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Was trading Ryan Mallett the right move by the Patriots?

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Texans' viewpoint: The Texans were seeking an upgrade on their depth chart behind starter Ryan Fitzpatrick, and first-year head coach Bill O'Brien and quarterbacks coach George Godsey have a background with Mallett from being on the Patriots' staff in Mallett's rookie season in 2011. O'Brien and Godsey can feel comfortable knowing that Mallett has been well-schooled over the past three-plus years in a system that is similar, if not identical, to what they are installing in Houston. With the future in mind, Mallett is another option to consider if 2014 fourth-round pick Tom Savage doesn't develop as hoped. Mallett could be a one-year rental in Houston, but given the importance of the quarterback position and how the entire team is at risk if there isn't a player ready to run the offense, a late-round pick seems to be a fair price to pay.

Patriots' track record with quarterbacks: There was a time when former Packers general manager Ron Wolf was the gold standard in football when it came to developing quarterbacks. Those quarterbacks helped the Packers win big in the 1990s, provided valuable insurance or brought back something in return in a trade. The Patriots have a nice little Wolf-type run going over the past five years. Two of their last three backups, Matt Cassel and Mallett, have filled an insurance-based or emergency-starter role and then brought back a draft pick in return (Cassel and Mike Vrabel traded to Kansas City for a high second-rounder in 2009). That's not to mention that the Patriots' backup quarterback between those two, Brian Hoyer, is slated to the start the opener for the Cleveland Browns this year. The Patriots never found a trade partner for Hoyer and ended up releasing him in 2012. Wolf would certainly approve.

Pats trade Ryan Mallett to Texans

August, 31, 2014
Aug 31
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video

The Houston Texans have acquired quarterback Ryan Mallett from the New England Patriots.

The Patriots received a conditional sixth or seventh-round draft pick in 2016, a source told ESPN.

Mallett, 26, could have a bright future with the rebuilding Texans, who will enter this season with veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick as their starting quarterback.

To make room for Mallett on their roster, the Texans will waive quarterback Case Keenum, a source told ESPN. Keenum started eight games last season and had been battling rookie Tom Savage for a backup role behind Fitzpatrick.

The 6-foot-6 Mallett was drafted by New England in the third round in 2011 and had served as Tom Brady's primary backup in each of the last two seasons.

But Mallett was passed on the Patriots' depth chart this summer by rookie Jimmy Garoppolo, a second-round pick who impressed throughout training camp and the preseason.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick would not comment on the team's depth chart at quarterback following last Thursday's preseason finale against the New York Giants.

But Garoppolo played the entire game against New York, punctuating a stellar preseason during which he completed 46 of 79 passes for 618 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.


(Read full post)


Bill Belichick: 3 QBs not a hard decision

August, 31, 2014
Aug 31
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A few notes from Bill Belichick's Sunday morning conference call with reporters:

Three quarterbacks not a hard decision. Asked if it was a challenging decision to keep three quarterbacks, Belichick paused briefly before saying, "I wouldn't say so. Fortunately, we have three good players at that position, three players we have a lot of confidence in. I'm sure there are some teams in the league that don't have that feeling about that position. They may not have one, I don't know. I've been in that position before. It's not a good place to be. We're fortunate we have three good players there. That's a good situation."

More roster moves to come. When Belichick was asked about not having a dedicated long-snapper on the roster following the release of Danny Aiken, he cautioned not to read too much into it. "I know there are a lot of things that are potentially in transition with a number of spots on our team," Belichick said. "I'm not saying they will or won't change. I'm not sure. We're looking at different options and we'll just do the best we can to put it together the best way we feel like we can and we'll just go from there. There are a lot of things we need to see between now and I'd say next Wednesday. I wouldn't commit to anything one way or another."

Preparations for Miami underway. While the personnel side of the operation is "grinding our way through the waiver wire" (practice squads can be formulated starting at 12 p.m. ET), Belichick said the coaching staff "is hard at work in our preparations for Miami."

Quick-hit thoughts around NFL, Patriots

August, 31, 2014
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Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the New England Patriots:
  • After years of doing so, the Patriots altered course and scrapped the idea of giving members of the rookie class creative haircuts. They were usually given before the team's annual kickoff dinner in front of donors and sponsors and were a tradition of sorts. A Patriots leader was asked about the change and indicated that it was made after everything that unfolded last year in Miami with Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin. This reminded us of Bill Belichick's remarks last year when he was asked about making sure hazing doesn't get out of control on his teams.

  • It's been interesting learning about new Patriots tight end Tim Wright, who wasn't invited to the NFL combine in 2013, went undrafted, didn't have notable production at Rutgers and was viewed by some as a "tweener" who was too slow to play receiver (timed around 4.65 in the 40) but wasn't big enough to play tight end. So, in a one-year span, how did he go from an undesirable commodity without a position to a significant piece in a trade for a six-time Pro Bowl guard like Logan Mankins? Wright's intelligence and work ethic is a big part of it, and credit also goes to former Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano for switching him from receiver to tight end to maximize his assets. Here's another thing I learned about Wright: While he's listed at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds on the roster, he's actually closer to 230, which has helped him be more competitive in blocking situations. The added weight obviously hasn't compromised his quickness and smoothness in getting out of his breaks as he's still growing into the position.

  • From a shock value perspective, last Tuesday's trade of Mankins to the Buccaneers was similar to the 2009 trade that sent Richard Seymour to the Raiders. From the eerie coincidence department: When Seymour departed town, it was Mankins who purchased his home.

  • With the Patriots welcoming the Raiders to town Sept. 21 for their home opener, recent developments with Oakland's quarterback situation bear watching. Veteran Matt Schaub has been slowed by an elbow injury, opening the door for second-round draft choice Derek Carr, who played well in Thursday's preseason finale against Seattle and is now presumably a candidate to start the regular-season opener on the road against the New York Jets. If it's close, why not go with Carr?

  • The Patriots kept 10 offensive linemen on their initial 53-man roster, which is on the high side compared to the NFL average. The only other clubs to keep 10 were the Dolphins, Colts, Giants, Buccaneers and Panthers. Nine clubs went with just eight offensive linemen, while the remaining 17 teams stayed with nine. So when considering where the Patriots might trim if they are looking to add players to the roster in the coming days, that looks like a target spot; someone like second-year blocker Chris Barker might not be in the clear for a roster spot.

    Sam
  • For those wondering if the Patriots might consider a claim on Michael Sam, the first openly gay player selected in the NFL draft who was waived Saturday by the Rams, I don't see it. The Patriots are well stocked at their end-of-the-line spots, which is where Sam would fit in their scheme. They could use a little more depth with linebackers who play off the line, with special teams considerations in mind, and that's why a player like former Saints linebacker Kevin Reddick is a more likely target for consideration -- on the roster or practice squad. Reddick was one of 12 players in for tryouts over the last day or so.

  • The Patriots are currently without a long snapper after waiving incumbent Danny Aiken on Saturday. It's a mildly surprising move because they don't have another one on the roster unless they plan to tap veteran Rob Ninkovich in the role. That's unlikely. Keep an eye on former 49ers snapper Kevin McDermott, who was waived Saturday, as a potential top candidate.

  • Former Boston College kicker Nate Freese, who was drafted in the seventh round by the Lions, won a training camp competition with undrafted Giorgio Tavecchio. Now he hopes to follow in the footsteps of two franchise greats in Eddie Murray and Jason Hanson, who won the job as rookies in 1980 and 1992, respectively, and went on to have terrific careers with the franchise. Freese's regular-season debut comes under a bright spotlight -- on ESPN's “Monday Night Football” at home against the Giants.

    Mallett
  • I wonder how much Bill Belichick is factoring in a potential 2016 compensatory draft choice when considering Ryan Mallett's standing on the roster. Mallett's contract expires after the 2014 season, and he'll almost certainly sign elsewhere, a move that will count in the Patriots' favor in the compensatory pick formula. So while Jimmy Garoppolo looks ready to assume the No. 2 role this year, and releasing Mallett would open up a spot elsewhere on the roster, I could also envision Belichick seeing two-layered value in keeping Mallett: The importance of the position itself as we see other clubs struggle to fill depth charts (e.g. Buffalo) and those future draft considerations.

  • The Patriots haven't kept three quarterbacks on their roster since 2011, preferring to go with just two, while using the roster spot on another position player who is more likely to help on game day. They weren't alone, as it seemed like a growing number of clubs were content with just two. But one thing that stood out to me when scanning initial 53-man rosters across the NFL on Saturday was what seemed like a larger-than-usual number of teams choosing to add a third layer at quarterback this year. I counted 19 clubs with three quarterbacks on their initial rosters, which included every team in the NFC North. One theory is that with a deep rookie class of quarterbacks this year, there is more willingness for development at the position.

Accountability check: Patriots' locks

August, 30, 2014
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Before the New England Patriots convened for 2014 training camp, the "checking the locks" series went through each position on the roster to classify players in the "sure-fire lock," "near-lock" and "trying to get in the door" categories.

Let's do an accountability check, revisit the "checking the locks" series, and see some of what we got right and wrong:

WAY OFF THE MARK

Josh Boyce -- The second-year receiver was listed as a "sure-fire lock" with the thinking that if 2013 third-round pick Jake Bequette earned a two-year redshirt type of situation, Boyce would at least get a second year. Boyce's release, while not unexpected by the end of camp, was the signature move of the day.

Jon Halapio -- The high sixth-round draft choice from Florida (179th overall) was viewed as a "sure-fire lock" with the idea that he'd get a year to groom behind the scenes. What we didn't see coming was Jordan Devey's emergence.

Will Smith -- Calling the veteran defensive end a "near lock" was too aggressive. Penalize that one 5 yards for a neutral zone infraction.

Jemea Thomas -- Figured the sixth-round pick from Georgia Tech would be a "sure-fire lock" based on his versatility and special-teams experience, but an injury on the first day of training camp -- and the unexpected rise of undrafted Malcolm Butler -- was a bad combination and he didn't make it through first cuts.

CONFIDENCE IN PLAYERS REWARDED

Brandon Bolden -- Had the third-year running back as a "near lock" from the start, even as speculation swirled that he might be on the bubble, because of his four-down value to the team.

James Develin -- It was easy to see that the fullback was a valuable cog for the Patriots by the end of the preseason, but the picture was far from that clear before the first practice of camp. We'll invest in players like Develin any day of the week and that's why he was a "near lock" from the get-go.

Chris Jones -- Second-year defensive tackle was viewed as a "sure-fire lock" because of his upside, and even after injuring his left ankle in the preseason opener, the Patriots kept a spot reserved for him.

Zach Moore -- From Day 1, we've been high on the sixth-round pick from Concordia (198th overall) because of his unique physical traits. The Roy Hibbert look-a-like has come through for us when it comes to his "sure-fire lock" status.

EXTRA POINT: In our final 53-man roster projection from Friday morning, this is what we missed: Offensive lineman Chris Barker and safety Duron Harmon on the roster in place of linebacker Steve Beauharnais and long snapper Danny Aiken.

Cornell's Mathews among Patriots' tryouts

August, 30, 2014
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The New England Patriots haven't just been busy formulating their 53-man roster, but they have also taken a closer look at some other available players over the past 24 hours. The following players were in for tryouts, perhaps to also give the Patriots a different perspective on some of the players on their own roster:

Armon Binns -- Third-year receiver has spent time with the Bengals (2011-2012) and most recently with the Dolphins (2013). He is 6-foot-3 and 211 pounds, has 24 career receptions, and was released by the Dolphins in the cut to 75 players this week.

Omar Brown -- Third-year safety from Marshall appeared in four games with the Ravens over the 2012 and 2013 seasons. He was with the Ravens in training camp and released as part of the cut to 75 players.

Deveron Carr -- Second-year cornerback out of Arizona State played in nine games last season for the Greg Schiano-coached Buccaneers, and was with the Lovie-Smith-led Buccaneers again in training camp this year before being waived in the cut to 75 players.

Jermelle Cudjo -- A fourth-year defensive tackle out of Oklahoma, he appeared in 38 games with the Rams over a three-season span (2010, 2012 and 2013), so he has a connection with current Patriots defensive line coach Brendan Daly. Cudjo was waived by the Rams in May, and then he hooked on with the Chiefs, who released him in the cut to 75 players this week.

Hebron Fangupo -- A second-year defensive tackle who is 29 years old, he was with the Seahawks (2012) and Steelers (2013), appearing in five games over that time. The former Brigham Young product was with the Steelers this training camp before being let go at the 75-player cut. He is 6-foot-0 and 324 pounds.

Cam Henderson -- A first-year defensive end out of Central Florida, the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Henderson has not appeared in an NFL regular-season game. He was with the Browns in training camp this year and waived in the cut to 75 players.

Aaron Hester -- A first-year cornerback out of UCLA, he was with the Lions until he was waived this week in the cut to 75 players. He has not appeared in an NFL regular-season game after trying to hook on with the Broncos last year as an undrafted free agent.

Rashad Lawrence -- The 6-foot-1, 190-pound rookie receiver out of Northwestern was with Washington in training camp and waived in the cutdown to 75 players. The Patriots practiced against him in early August before New England and Washington faced off in the preseason opener.

Jeff Mathews -- Rookie quarterback from Cornell who went undrafted was with the Falcons in training camp and was part of their initial cuts, as those who watched "Hard Knocks" saw this past Tuesday.

Kevin Reddick -- Second-year linebacker out of North Carolina, he appeared in 16 games for the Saints last season (0 starts) as a core special teamer. The 6-foot-1, 246-pound Reddick was waived as part of the Saints' cut to 75 this week.

Jerome Smith -- Rookie running back from Syracuse, who went undrafted, was with the Falcons in training camp and waived in the cut to 75 players.

McLeod Bethel-Thompson -- Third-year quarterback out of Sacramento State has been with the Vikings (2012-2013) and 49ers (2013). The 6-foot-3, 230-pound signal-caller was with San Francisco this training camp and part of the cuts to get down to 75 players.

New England Patriots cut-down analysis

August, 30, 2014
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Most significant move: Waiving 2013 fourth-round draft choice Josh Boyce. When training camp began, he was projected as the New England Patriots' top kickoff returner and was part of a deep receiving corps in which his speed was supposed to be an asset. But Kenbrell Thompkins, an undrafted free agent from the same 2013 class, once again outperformed him as Boyce couldn't gain enough momentum. He'd be a strong practice-squad candidate if he clears waivers.

Linebacker depth on radar: Arguably the second-most notable move was second-year linebacker Steve Beauharnais being waived. The Patriots don't have much depth at their off-the-line linebacker spots (evolving depth chart here), but they're probably factoring Dont'a Hightower into that mix, and perhaps even Rob Ninkovich in an emergency. Beauharnais was on the bubble and had value in terms of his knowledge of the defense and ability to lead the huddle and get everyone lined up correctly, so perhaps he returns on the practice squad if he's not claimed.

Three quarterbacks for now: The Patriots kept both Ryan Mallett and Jimmy Garoppolo behind Tom Brady, marking the first time since 2011 that they'll enter the season with three players at the position. The next question: Who's No. 2?

If history is any indication, expect more movement: The Patriots seldom set their 53-man roster and stand pat. With this in mind, it would hardly be surprising if there aren't more moves ahead, with the club claiming a player or two on waivers, or entertaining trade possibilities in certain areas. Like some of the lower-level players on the roster should be, we're still on edge for potential surprises.

A change at snapper: In releasing Danny Aiken, the Patriots don't have another snapper on the roster outside of Rob Ninkovich. The Patriots could always bring in another player at the position, but for now, it looks like Ninkovich's job unless Aiken returns or the team signs someone else.

 Patriots cuts: LS Danny Aiken, LB Steve Beauharnais, DE Jake Bequette, WR Josh Boyce, C Braxston Cave, LB Ja'Gared Davis, S Kanorris Davis, RB Roy Finch, WR Jeremy Gallon, S Shamiel Gary, RB Jonas Gray, OL Jon Halapio, TE Steve Maneri, DL Eathyn Manumaleuna, FB Taylor McCuller, LB James Morris (injured reserve), CB Daxton Swanson, DL L.T. Tuipulotu, DL Jerel Worthy.

What's next: Bill Belichick is scheduled to hold a 10 a.m. ET conference call Sunday to answer questions on the roster, and more.

Breaking down Patriots' 53-man roster

August, 30, 2014
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Breaking down the New England Patriots' 53-man roster:

QUARTERBACK (3)

Tom Brady
Jimmy Garoppolo
Ryan Mallett

Quick-hit thought: Could be the best depth chart, from top to bottom and with future upside in mind, in Bill Belichick's 15-year tenure.

RUNNING BACK (4)

Shane Vereen
James White
Stevan Ridley
Brandon Bolden

Quick-hit thought: Bolden brings notable special-teams value, while there could be times we see plenty of Vereen and White on the field together.

FULLBACK (1)

James Develin

Quick-hit thought: Hard-nosed player has earned everything he has coming to him.

TIGHT END (3)

Rob Gronkowski
Michael Hoomanawanui
Tim Wright

Quick-hit thought: Promising start for Wright in the preseason finale, as he looks like the better complement to Gronkowski in "12 personnel" (e.g. one back, two TEs).

WIDE RECEIVER (5)

Julian Edelman
Aaron Dobson
Danny Amendola
Brandon LaFell
Kenbrell Thompkins
Brian Tyms*

Quick-hit thought: Dobson's 50-snap performance Thursday night was a significant step in him being in position to help the team from the start of the regular season. Tyms doesn't count against the 53-man roster limit because of his four-game suspension.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)

LT Nate Solder
LG Josh Kline
C Ryan Wendell
RG Dan Connolly
RT Sebastian Vollmer
OT/G Marcus Cannon
C Bryan Stork
OT/G Jordan Devey
OT Cameron Fleming
G/LT Chris Barker

Quick-hit thought: Unlike last year, when the Patriots were combing the waiver wire for developmental prospects, they ended up with a surplus in this all-important area.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE (6)

Vince Wilfork
Dominique Easley
Sealver Siliga
Chris Jones
Joe Vellano
Zach Moore

Quick-hit thought: After Wilfork, who remains the rock in the middle, it's a young group with high upside.

DEFENSIVE END/OUTSIDE LINEBACKER (5)

Chandler Jones
Dont'a Hightower
Rob Ninkovich
Michael Buchanan
Darius Fleming

Quick-hit thought: If Jones and Hightower are the top players on the edge, it could reduce Ninkovich's playing time (95 percent of the snaps last year).

INSIDE LINEBACKER (3)

Jerod Mayo
Jamie Collins
Chris White

Quick-hit thought: Looks a bit thin here and could be the area where the Patriots look closely at the waiver wire. Darius Fleming could add depth in this spot too.

CORNERBACK (5)

Darrelle Revis
Malcolm Butler
Logan Ryan
Alfonzo Dennard
Kyle Arrington
Brandon Browner*

Quick-hit thought: Belichick previously said that this is as deep of a group as he's had in recent memory. Next question: Who starts opposite Revis?

* Player doesn't count against the 53-man roster because of NFL suspension.

SAFETY (5)

Devin McCourty
Patrick Chung
Tavon Wilson
Duron Harmon
Nate Ebner

Quick-hit thought: Still a bit of a mystery as to how the safety spot next to McCourty will be handled, as there are a lot of options, including some cornerbacks who have seen time there.

SPECIALISTS (3)

P Ryan Allen
K Stephen Gostkowski
Captain Matthew Slater

Quick-hit thought: No snapper on the roster after the release of Danny Aiken, which would thrust Rob Ninkovich into that role unless the Patriots sign someone else or bring Aiken back. The Aiken release could be part of some initial roster management to preserve assets at other positions (e.g. Mallett, Barker) that the Patriots felt had value if they landed on the open market.

Patriots inform Boyce, others of release

August, 30, 2014
Aug 30
11:59
AM ET
The New England Patriots informed second-year wide receiver Josh Boyce that he will be waived by Saturday's 4 p.m. ET deadline, as the team has started the process of trimming its roster from 75 to 53 players.

Joyce
Boyce
Boyce, a high fourth-round draft choice out of Texas Christian last year, entered training camp as the team's projected top kickoff returner. He was expected to be a backup at receiver, but he didn't make the expected first-to-second-year jump at that position. He was left off our most recent roster projection.

The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Boyce, whose speed was one of his main assets coming into the NFL, could potentially return to the team's practice squad if he clears waivers.

In addition to Boyce, the Patriots have informed rookie guard Jon Halapio that he is also being waived. That move was expected, although it's a bit of a disappointment for the Patriots after they selected Halapio in the sixth round of the draft (179th overall) out of Florida.

Similar to Boyce, the 6-foot-3, 320-pound Halapio is a possibility for the practice squad if he's not claimed on waivers.

Also, second-year linebacker Steve Beauharnais was informed of his release in what could be considered a mild surprise. The 2013 seventh-round draft choice from Rutgers was praised by teammates for his film study and command of the defense.

Others reportedly told of their release who were expected to be let go, per reports, include defensive tackles Jerel Worthy, Eathyn Manumaleuna, and L.T Tuipulotu, defensive end Jake Bequette, center Braxston Cave, tight end Steve Maneri, linebackers James Morris (injured) and Ja'Gared Davis, receiver Jeremy Gallon, fullback Taylor McCuller, running backs Roy Finch and Jonas Gray, cornerback Daxton Swanson, and safeties Kanorris Davis and Shamiel Gary.

NOTE: While players are informed of their release, nothing is official until the team turns in paperwork to the NFL. There is always the outside chance of a late change, or another team seeing news of a player being informed of his release and approaching that team about a trade.

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