NFL Nation: NFL Roster Analysis 2011

New York Giants cutdown analysis

September, 4, 2011
9/04/11
8:19
AM ET
Click here for a complete list of the New York Giants' roster moves.

Biggest surprise: Four rookie linebackers made the team. And yes, I know some of you were telling me that would happen Friday, but I expected Adrian Tracy to make the team and I was wrong. He was one of three 2010 draft picks -- including fellow linebacker Phillip Dillard and punter Matt Dodge -- among Saturday's cuts. But in part because of the way they played on special teams, rookies Mark Herzlich, Greg Jones, Jacquian Williams and Spencer Paysinger all made the team. That's the corps of backup linebackers behind starters Jonathan Goff, Mathias Kiwanuka and Michael Boley.

Running backs D.J. Ware and Da'Rel Scott made the team while 2009 draft pick Andre Brown was cut. Devin Thomas made the team as a wide receiver over Michael Clayton based on a strong preseason showing. And the Giants basically keep three tight ends -- Travis Beckum, Jake Ballard and Bear Pascoe with rookie Henry Hynoski slated to be the starting fullback.

No-brainers: Dodge had a very good preseason, has a lot of talent and probably will find work somewhere. But once the Giants brought in Steve Weatherford, who's been one of the best punters in the league the past two years, Dodge's days were numbered. Weatherford will be the punter, and the bad memories of Dodge and DeSean Jackson can begin to fade. Health issues cost Sage Rosenfels the backup quarterback job, which goes back to David Carr.

What's next: I think they need to sort through the Eagles' castoffs. In particular, tight end Donald Lee and nickel cornerback Joselio Hanson make a lot of sense for the Giants, as the former would fill a huge hole and the latter would allow them to keep Antrel Rolle at safety. And personally I always think they need linebacker help, but they disagree and they like their rookies, so I guess we'll see.

Oakland Raiders cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
10:35
PM ET
Check here for a complete list of the Oakland Raiders’ roster moves.

Surprise move: Oakland cut several defensive backs, including Lito Sheppard, Walter McFadden, Jeremy Ware, Stevie Brown and camp star Sterling Moore. Veteran running back Michael Bennett and receiver/returner Nick Miller survived the cuts, which was somewhat unexpected. Oakland kept linebacker Darryl Blackstock, who had been out of the league. He played for Oakland defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan in the UFL. Quarterback Trent Edwards was cut after he was signed this summer with designs of being the backup. But Kyle Boller separated himself from Edwards. It’s a bit surprising Edwards was cut now with Terrelle Pryor starting a five-game suspension. Still, if he’s not picked up (perhaps Kansas City will be interested), Edwards could always be brought back to Oakland before Pryor joins the roster.

No-brainers: There was speculation receiver Chaz Schilens and safety Mike Mitchell (a second-round pick in 2009) could be on the chopping block. They made the team as they have. Both have been dealing with injuries, but both players have potential. Now, if we’re still talking about injuries and untapped potential this time next year, their futures could become cloudy. But they both deserve to be in Oakland this season.

What's next: I think Oakland will continue to look for cornerbacks and safeties. They will also still look at weakside linebackers, and they will look to upgrade the offensive line. And I know Oakland likes its receivers, but I could also see it keeping an open mind about the position.

Jacksonville Jaguars cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
9:58
PM ET
Click here for a complete list of Jaguars' roster moves.

Surprise moves: Three undrafted rookies stuck -- offensive linemen Cameron Bradfield, receiver Jamar Newsome and cornerback Kevin Rutland. The Jaguars already have a deep IR, with running backs Rashad Jennings and Richard Murphy, defensive tackle D'Anthony Smith (for the second year in a row), corner David Jones, end Aaron Morgan.

No-brainers: Getting another defensive back in a trade with the Jets for Dwight Lowery was a good mover. With Rashean Mathis, Derek Cox, Drew Coleman and Lowery the team is deeper at corner than it was last year. But Lowery has some safety experience. Could the Jaguars want him there? The Don Carey experiment in the defensive backfield depth mix needed to end.

What’s next: This has to be the only team in the league with more fullbacks (three) than running backs (two). No matter how much Jack Del Rio talks of giving the fullbacks carries, a run-based team needs another running back. It should upgrade offensive line depth too.

Cleveland Browns cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
9:45
PM ET
Check here and here for a complete list of the Cleveland Browns' roster moves.

Surprise moves: I may be on an island with this one, but I thought offensive tackle Branndon Braxton had a chance to make the team. Braxton is raw, but the Browns are thin on the offensive line. They could have taken on a project. Braxton has good size and decent feet.

Cleveland also released third-string quarterback Jarrett Brown. He had the strongest arm on the team and showed flashes. The Browns are hoping to get him back on the practice squad.

Terminating the contract of Demetrius Williams was a mild surprise. The former Baltimore Raven is experienced and made a few plays in camp. But it wasn't enough to take playing time away from youngsters like rookie receiver Greg Little.

No-brainers: Cornerback Coye Francies is a 2009 draft pick under former coach Eric Mangini who barely hung onto a roster spot for two years. But with the coaching change, you had the sense Francies' days were numbered. He was released.

There was only one tailback spot open behind Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty. Armond Smith beat out Quinn Porter in a close race that came down to the final preseason game.

Tailback Brandon Jackson (toe) also was put on injured reserve. Jackson, a free-agent pickup from the Green Bay Packers, will be out for the season.

What's next: The Browns will scan the waiver wires in search of depth. The preseason proved depth is desperately needed at several positions, particularly on the offensive line. Cleveland's backups have been thoroughly outplayed in exhibition games. This team isn't built to sustain many injuries.

Houston Texans cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
9:36
PM ET
Click here for a complete list of Houston Texans’ roster moves.

Surprise moves: After cutting rookie punter Brett Hartmann last week, the team cut veteran Brad Maynard. The Texans do not have a punter. One fan quickly joked that a high-powered offense doesn’t intend to punt. But the Texans clearly have their eye on someone and will be adding a punter in the next couple of days. They've left a roster spot open for him. Fifth-round safety Shiloh Keo, a Wade Phillips favorite who was supposed to be a special teams demon, didn’t make it. Raw, undrafted outside linebacker Bryan Braman did make it.

No-brainers: Deciding Steve Slaton was one of their best 53 players and keeping four running backs seemed prudent to me. Deciding Trindon Holliday wasn’t going to help as a return man or receiver makes sense too.

What’s next: The team has only Andre Johnson, Kevin Walter, Jacoby Jones and newcomer Bryant Johnson at receiver and could be looking for a fifth option, thought their pass catching tight ends ease the concern. Houston is thin on the offensive line, too.

Seattle Seahawks cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
9:29
PM ET
Surprise move: There really weren't any because the Seahawks had already parted with so many familiar names over the past couple seasons. Colin Cole was the most established player shown the door. He had been injured, his salary was $3.75 million and the team had re-signed Brandon Mebane with an eye toward moving Mebane to nose tackle. Those factors worked against Cole sticking around.

Receiver Isaiah Stanback, valued on special teams, landed on injured reserve along with defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson and tight end John Carlson. Rookie safety Mark LeGree, a fifth-round draft choice, was the Seahawks' only 2011 selection to miss the initial cut. Jeron Johnson, one of three undrafted rookies to earn roster spots, beat him out.

No-brainers: Golden Tate's status had drawn considerable attention in recent weeks, but the Seahawks never planned to release him. Tate came through with a strong performance in the final exhibition game, putting to rest questions about his status. Running back Justin Forsett wasn't in danger, either, even though Leon Washington could be moving past him on the depth chart behind starter Marshawn Lynch. With Washington and Forsett sticking around, there was no room for Thomas Clayton. Undrafted rookies Josh Portis (quarterback) and Doug Baldwin (receiver) had clearly done enough to earn spots initially. Both stuck.

What's next: The situation at fullback and tight end bears monitoring with Carlson landing on injured reserve, as expected. Dominique Byrd stuck as the third tight end for now. Assistant head coach/offensive line Tom Cable has valued h-back types in his offense and it's unclear whether the Seahawks' current personnel addresses that function adequately. Fullback Michael Robinson stuck on the roster as well. Seattle will have to wait six games before bringing back receiver Deon Butler, cornerback Roy Lewis and tight end Cameron Morrah. All are on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. The severity of left guard Robert Gallery's knee injury could influence how the team proceeds on the offensive line.

Detroit Lions cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
8:28
PM ET
Check here for a complete list of the Detroit Lions' roster moves.

Surprise move: I don't know if it qualified as a surprise, but it was sure jarring to hear earlier Saturday that veteran punter Nick Harris was ousted. Harris has been the Lions' punter since 2003 and hadn't appeared to be in decline. But rookie Ryan Donahue is 10 years younger than Harris and had an equally strong training camp. Age doesn't always apply to punters as it does to players at other positions, but the Lions must believe Donahue can be their punter for years to come. Meanwhile, the Lions activated cornerback Alphonso Smith from the non-football injury list, meaning they believe he will be ready to play before the sixth week of the season.

No-brainers: You don't always see a six-year veteran as a team's No. 6 receiver, but Maurice Stovall proved he will be a valuable special teams player as well as a possible red zone threat. He beat out 2009 third-round draft pick Derrick Williams, whose potential never materialized and who was still dropping passes with regularity during the preseason. In training camp, it was clear that veteran Nate Vasher was behind younger cornerbacks Aaron Berry and Brandon McDonald. Both Berry and McDonald remain on the roster. Vasher was cut.

What's next: Lions general manager Martin Mayhew is usually good for a couple of trades and veteran acquisitions during Labor Day weekend. You wonder if the Lions want to fortify their running back depth, which currently includes little-used Aaron Brown and an injured Maurice Morris. Chester Taylor is a Detroit-area native. Just saying.

New York Jets cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
8:27
PM ET
Check here for a complete list of the New York Jets' roster moves.

Surprise moves: With a surplus of defensive backs, the Jets traded Cornerback/safety Dwight Lowery to the Jaguars for a conditional draft pick. They will miss his versatility and his penchant for making clutch plays, but they felt comfortable with four safeties and six corners.

That they didn’t acquire an experienced backup offensive lineman was a surprise. They’re perilously thin on the line. They acquired rookie guard Caleb Schlauderaff from the Packers, but he’s a project. He’s nasty run blocker but extremely limited in pass protection.

Former Bills bust Aaron Maybin made the 53, but the undersized pass-rusher isn’t a lock to make the opening-day roster despite a flashy performance in the final preseason game.

No-brainers: None of the 26 cuts shocked anyone. Going into the final preseason game, 50 of the 53 spots were decided, according to Rex Ryan. The Jets are playing the continuity card this season, which makes sense in the post-lockout world. In fact, they have 19 returning starters.

What’s next: With rookie quarterback Greg McElroy (thumb surgery) out indefinitely, they need a No. 3 quarterback behind Mark Sanchez and Mark Brunell. Possibilities include two former Jets -- Kellen Clemens and Kevin O’Connell, both of whom were released Saturday. They’re still looking for experienced offensive linemen, but it’s a thin market.

Kansas City Chiefs cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
8:15
PM ET
Check here for a complete list of the Kansas City Chiefs’ roster moves.

Surprise move: The Chiefs kept Keary Colbert ahead of fellow receivers Verran Tucker and Jeremy Horne. Colbert signed during the summer. He hasn’t been on an NFL roster since 2008. Yet, Colbert became a favorite of Kansas City coach Todd Haley. Defensive tackle Amon Gordon is another vet enjoying a career resurgence in Kansas City. He has played in just 17 games since entering the league in 2004. The Chiefs like Gordon as a run stuffer.

No-brainers: The big news out of Kansas City on Saturday is that standout tight end Tony Moeaki was put on the injured reserve with a knee injury he suffered at Green Bay on Thursday. Thus, the Chiefs kept both backups Jake O'Connell and Anthony Becht. Both players were considered bubble players but they are needed now.

What's next: It starts at tight end. The Chiefs could use a pass catcher. They could look at Donald Lee, who was cut Saturday, among other players. Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli could also make a run at safety Brandon Meriweather. He was cut by New England. Pioli was part of the team when it drafted Meriweather. The Chiefs also could scour the waiver wire at receiver, offensive line, inside linebacker and on the defensive line. So, yes, the Chiefs could look to upgrade throughout the roster. Also, if an interesting backup quarterback becomes available, the Cheifs could pursue him in favor of current backup Tyler Palko.

Carolina Panthers cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
7:48
PM ET
Check here for a complete list of the Carolina Panthers’ roster moves.

Surprise move: The Panthers waived fullback Tony Fiammetta, their starter last season and the man who had the misfortune to replace fan favorite Brad Hoover. Fiammetta didn’t do a lot to endear himself to the old coaching staff and that didn’t change after Ron Rivera took over.

The Panthers recently went out and signed Jerome Felton. Presumably, Felton will move right into the starting lineup. Being the lead blocker for DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart could make him look pretty good.

No-brainers: The Panthers released defensive tackles Nick Hayden and Corvey Irvin, who had gotten a fair amount of playing time in recent years. That leaves them with only three defensive tackles, which was the weakest spot on the roster the last few years. There was no sense holding onto Hayden or Irvin because the Panthers already knew they weren’t the answer. This is a position where the Panthers are far from done. Although they have high hopes for rookies Terrell McClain and Sione Fua, they’ll take a look at who else around the league is available. It’s a safe bet they’ll sign a defensive tackle -- maybe two.

What’s next: In addition to defensive tackle, there’s still work to do on this roster. General manager Marty Hurney was very aggressive coming out of the lockout. Look for him to jump back into that mode quickly. The Panthers need a starting right guard after placing Garry Williams on the injured-reserve list. They could also use help at cornerback and wide receiver.

Miami Dolphins cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
7:47
PM ET
Check here for a complete list of the Miami Dolphins' roster moves.

Surprise moves: Although I wouldn't call either move shocking, the Dolphins terminated the contracts of big-name veterans Larry Johnson and Will Allen.

Johnson was trying to restart his career and had a chance to be Miami's third tailback. Instead, Miami will go with Reggie Bush, Daniel Thomas and Lex Hilliard. Allen was prone to injuries in recent seasons, and his release could be a financial move. He was slated to make $1.5 million in 2011.

Miami also terminated the contract of starting fullback Lousaka Polite, which was a curious move. Fullbacks are decreasing in value in today's pass-happy NFL, but Polite was a popular player in Miami.

No-brainers: The Dolphins didn't like what they saw in backup quarterbacks Pat Devlin and Kevin O'Connell. Some NFL teams are going into the season with two quarterbacks. But the Dolphins probably will look for another player to develop behind starting quarterback Chad Henne and backup Matt Moore.

What’s next: Do not be surprised if the Dolphins are one of the teams in the market for a big name. Given Bush's durability questions and Thomas' rookie status, free-agent running back Chester Taylor should at least be up for discussion in Miami. The Dolphins do not need a primary tailback but could use someone proven to add stability. The New England Patriots also confirmed safety Brandon Meriweather's release on Saturday evening. He is an upgrade over what the Dolphins currently have and would provide an opportunity to take a good player from a division rival.
Check here for a complete list of the New England Patriots‘ roster moves.

Surprise move: There was plenty of speculation about safety Brandon Meriweather's future after he played into the fourth quarter with the second unit in Thursday’s exhibition finale against the New York Giants, but it was still a surprise when the Patriots outright released the former first-round pick (24th overall in the 2007 draft) on Saturday. After releasing veteran James Sanders as part of the previous cutdowns, the Patriots further turned over that position, waving goodbye to a player who’s been to the Pro Bowl in each of the past two seasons.

The team also raised some eyebrows by releasing defensive end Eric Moore, a starter at season’s end last year, but the additions of veterans such as Mark Anderson and Shaun Ellis on the defensive line made him expendable. Wide receiver Brandon Tate, who was the team’s primary kick returner and No. 3 receiver last year, got edged by more versatile bodies, and veteran running back Sammy Morris was a victim of an influx of young talent at running back.

No-brainers: First-year players like offensive lineman Thomas Austin, running back Eric Kettani, and defensive back Ross Ventrone, as well as rookies linebacker Markell Carter, defensive lineman Aaron Lavarias, defensive end Alex Silvestro, tight end Lee Smith and tight end Will Yeatman were longer shots to make the roster. The release of two young tight ends (Smith and Yeatman) is a bit surprising given New England’s love of three tight-end sets and no pure fullback. (Could veteran Alge Crumpler be on the radar?)

What’s next: The Patriots are certainly in the market for safety help, and with backup guard Rich Ohrnberger placed on season-ending injured reserve, the team is thin on the interior line. Remember that this team rarely sits idle after cutdowns. Expect the Patriots to tweak their roster further based on what becomes available from cutdowns across the league.

Washington Redskins cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
7:30
PM ET
Click here for a complete list of the Washington Redskins' roster moves.

Biggest surprise: The decision to keep Chris Neild as a backup nose tackle and release Anthony Bryant. There was some chatter in the offseason about Bryant's possibly being promoted to starting nose tackle if the Redskins focused their offseason energies on defensive end. But once they signed Barry Cofield, they didn't need two backups, and they liked what they saw from Neild, especially on special teams.

Running backs Evan Royster and Keiland Williams have apparently been released, victims of overcrowding in a Redskins running-back field now headed by Tim Hightower. Ryan Torain will remain on the roster, along with Roy Helu, as a top option if Hightower should falter. And it's a bit surprising to see them keep eight receivers, including Brandon Banks, Leonard Hankerson, Niles Paul and Donte' Stallworth.

No-brainers: They're only keeping two quarterbacks, John Beck and Rex Grossman, while cutting Kellen Clemens and Matt Gutierrez, but I don't think that's surprising. Those last two were only there to help take up preseason snaps when they needed to rest guys who might be their starters at any point this season. Rookie receiver Aldrick Robinson didn't do anything to help himself. And Artis Hicks has been squeezed out of the offensive line mix. They looked into trading Hicks on Saturday but ultimately had to put him on waivers.

What's next: They could hit the market for a third quarterback, obviously, though that's not a major concern. I wonder if they'll still look for help at defensive end with Jarvis Jenkins out for the year. The Cowboys just cut Igor Olshansky, who's a name that will surely catch someone's attention.

San Diego Chargers cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
7:24
PM ET
Check here for a complete list of the San Diego Chargers' roster moves.

Surprise move: There were some familiar names on the Chargers’ cut list. Defensive end Ogemdi Nwagbuo was productive last year, and he was a popular member of the team. Receiver Seyi Ajirotutu also made some plays last season when the Chargers’ receiving crew was depleted. There was also a thought that undrafted rookie quarterback Scott Tolzien would be kept after a strong summer. I’m sure the Chargers will try to put him on the practice squad.

No-brainers: In the end, receiver/returner Bryan Walters and linebacker Darryl Gamble, an undrafted rookie, were too good to cut. Anyone who paid attention to San Diego in the preseason saw these two youngsters make play after play. Now, they have jobs. Expect them both to contribute on special teams this season.

What's next: The Chargers on Saturday signed veteran linebacker Na'il Diggs. The 12-year veteran is a leader, and he could push for playing time at inside linebacker. San Diego will probably look at the waiver wire for help in the secondary, offensive line and receiver.

Tennessee Titans cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
7:22
PM ET
Click here for a list of Titans' roster moves.

Surprise move: Ahmard Hall was suspended for the first four games of the season for a violation of the NFL’s policy against performance enhancers. The Titans traded an undisclosed draft pick to the Packers for Quinn Johnson, a fifth-rounder out of LSU in 2009. Johnson will serve as lead blocker for Chris Johnson while Hall is out. So the Titans have a running back and a fullback learning the team’s offense in a little over a week. Undrafted rookie corner Chris Hawkins made the team.

No-brainers: Time had come for receiver Justin Gage, a nice guy with good size who could block and be in the right spot, but dropped too many balls and was not enough of a threat. The entire nine-man draft class stuck, and it’s hard to say any one of them is around simply because of that status.

What’s next: Six defensive tackles is a luxury the team may not be able to afford for long, though one of them, Malcolm Sheppard, has been working at end. With only four true ends on the roster and Derrick Morgan out for the opener, the team either has faith in Sheppard or plans a move. The Titans’ fourth and fifth corners -- Tommie Campbell and Hawkins -- are rookies who were judged beter than Frank Walker.

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