The future is now.
On a day that included a few surprise moves, the most surprising came this morning when the Patriots released QB Cam Newton. It was a shocking move as he had been rumored to be the number QB on the depth chart, a player Belichick publicly praised whenever given the opportunity, and the $3.5 million owed to him regardless if he was on the roster or not. However, his stint on the COVID reentry cadence opened an opportunity for Mac while also ruffling some feathers at One Patriots Place. Unfortunately for Cam, Mac seized the opportunity provided in his absence and earned himself the starting role. Belichick often places higher importance on joint practice session performance than preseason game performance as opposing teams more frequently showed advanced defensive looks in practice that they otherwise don’t want on film from a preseason game. Mac’s incredible performance on Tuesday against the Giants went a long way in deciding this one.
This isn’t an article focused on Cam’s release and Mac’s inheritance of the Foxborough throne, but an exercise of accountability; too see how well my roster projections went.
Quarterbacks (1 for 2)
- Projected: Cam Newton, Mac Jones
- Actual: Mac Jones
- Released: Cam Newton, Brian Hoyer
- PUP: Jarret Sitdham
As discussed above, the big shocker for the day came when Jim McBride of the Boston Globe reported the Pats would be moving on from Cam Newton. I thought Mac would take over the starting role at some point this season but did not expect him to be named the opening day starter. Hoyer was released; however it sounds like he’ll be staying nearby and be back later this week after the Pats make some housekeeping moves with the injured guys.
Running Backs (4 of 5)
- Projected: Damien Harris, James White, Rhamondre Stevenson, J.J. Taylor, Brandon Bolden, Jakob Johnson on the practice squad
- Actual: Damien Harris, James White, Rhamondre Stevenson, J.J. Taylor, Brandon Bolden, Jakob Johnson
Jakob Johnson is the only difference from the projected to the actual roster. I thought the Pats may slide him to the practice squad using the international player exemption because I couldn’t see where else a cut may have been made. Johnson fell into the 51-56 player range where it wouldn’t have been a surprise with him either way. The Pats do love a good fullback though, so his inclusion on the roster lines up historically with what the Pats do on offense. More so now with Mac as the starter, the Pats will be reliant on a downhill run game to keep the offense on schedule. Otherwise, this is an extremely deep and talented group that will be fun to watch on Sunday’s.
Wide Receiver’s (6 for 6)
- Projected: Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, N’Keal Harry, Gunner Olszewski, Matter Slater
- Actual: Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, N’Keal Harry, Gunner Olszewski, Matter Slater
- IR: Marvin Hall
- Released: Tre Nixon, Kristian Wilkerson, Isaiah Zuber
Wilkerson and Zuber were given plenty of opportunities to secure the number four spot after Harry got injured but neither did enough to stand out. Nixon, Wilkerson, and Zuber are all candidates to be brought back on the practice squad if they clear waivers. Harry is a candidate for the short-term IR as he recovers from his shoulder injury. Otherwise, no surprises and a group that’s full potential may be unlocked with the new QB1.
Tight End’s (3 for 3)
- Projected: Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Devin Asiasi
- Actual: Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Devin Asiasi
- IR: Dalton Keene, Troy Fumagalli
- Released: Matt Lacosse
No surprises here as offseason investments Smith and Henry and last year’s third round pick were all locks to make the roster before camp opened. Lacosse may be on the Tiquan Underwood career path with the Pats and could be back later if injuries strike this position.
Tackles (4 for 5)
- Projected: Isaiah Wynn, Trent Brown, Yodny Cajuste, Justin Herron
- Actual: Isaiah Wynn, Trent Brown, Yodny Cajuste, Justin Herron, Yasir Durant
- Released: Korey Kunningham, Will Sherman
- IR: Marcus Martin
Cajuste made a late push for the top swing spot. When the Patriots acquired Yasir Durant from the Chiefs on Monday, it looked like it may be the end for one of Herron or Cajuste, but both survived final cuts. No surprises at the top of the depth chart and Brown and Wynn have been steady all summer. Durant and Herron offer positional flexibility and can play guard if needed. Sherman is a candidate for the practice squad if he clears waivers.
Guards (2 for 3)
- Projected: Mike Onwenu, Shaq Mason, James Ferentz
- Actual: Mike Onwenu, Shaq Mason
- Released: Alex Redmond, James Ferentz
A group that appears shallower than it is. Ferentz made my initial projection on football IQ and hustle, but after the trade for Durant he became expendable. While the top two guys are obvious roster locks, Karras, Durant, and Herron can all slide inside in the case of an injury.
Centers (2 for 2)
- Projected: David Andrews, Ted Karras
- Actual: David Andrews, Ted Karras
No surprises here. Both guys are quality interior linemen and are being paid to be here.
Defensive Line (5 for 6)
- Projected: Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy, Christian Barmore, Deatrich Wise, Henry Anderson
- Actual: Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy, Christian Barmore, Deatrich Wise, Henry Anderson, Carl Davis
- Released: Montravius Adams, Akeem Spence, Bill Murray, Nick Thurman
Davis makes the roster over someone like Myles Bryant. Davis was a productive addition last year in the right situation, expect him to be a frequent flyer on the game day inactive list unless injuries occur. Pats will carry the projected five plus him. Anderson played late into the preseason finale but makes the roster, his guaranteed money made it unlikely the Pats moved on from him. They tried to work out a trade for Montravius Adams but couldn’t find a willing partner and ended up releasing him. Expect him to be picked up on waivers elsewhere in the league.
Outside Linebacker’s (5 for 5)
- Projected: Matt Judon, Kyle Van Noy, Josh Uche, Chase Winovich, Ronnie Perkins
- Actual: Matt Judon, Kyle Van Noy, Josh Uche, Chase Winovich, Ronnie Perkins
- Released: Tashawn Bower
Never mess with a good thing. No surprises here as Pats have an extremely deep and talented group coming into the season. Real momentum is picking up for this group to be a premier pass rush squad.
Inside Linebacker’s (4 for 6)
- Projected: Don’t’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Anfernee Jennings, Harvey Langi
- Actual: Don’t’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Harvey Langi, Brandon King
- IR: Raekwon McMillan, Anfernee Jennings
- PUP: Terez Hall,
- NFI: Cameron McGrone
Never doubt Belichick and his love for special teams players. After two years away from football Brandon King makes the initial roster. Anfernee Jennings has struggled with injuries in his two years since being drafted, being placed on IR ends his season. This is another group that will be a strength of the team. All motor Langi makes the roster in a feel-good story of the summer.
Cornerbacks (5 for 7)
- Projected: Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jon Jones, Jalen Mills, Justin Bethel, Shaun Wade
- Actual: J.C. Jackson, Jon Jones, Jalen Mills, Justin Bethel, Shaun Wade, Joejuan Williams
- Released: D’Angelo Ross, Dee Virgin, Michael Jackson,
- PUP: Stephon Gilmore
I went back and forth on Joejuan and had him as number 54 on my final list. I kept a guy like Ferentz over him on my initial projections but his late summer use at both safety and corner may have saved his job. Gilmore being placed on PUP means he can’t return until week 7, meaning he’ll miss Brady’s return to Foxborough in week 4. Would’ve loved to have him for that one but this group is solid and deep even in his absence. Jackson again gets an opportunity to prove he can be a number one corner in a contract year.
Safeties (4 for 5)
- Projected: Devin McCourty, Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips, Myles Bryant, Cody Davis
- Actual: Devin McCourty, Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips, Cody Davis
- Released: Myles Bryant, Adrian Colbert
- NFI: Josh Bledsoe
Bryant seemed like he was going to be the surprise cut of the day until Newton was released. My initial thought is the Pats hope to slide him through waivers onto the practice squad or bring him back after the housekeeping of the injured guys. Either way, this is a gamble to lose a good player. Otherwise, McCourty, Dugger, and Phillips provide a versatile and talented group of safeties while Davis maintains his roster spot thanks to his “core four” status on special teams.
Specialists (2 for 3)
- Projected: Nick Folk, Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona
- Actual: Quin Nordin, Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona
- Released: Nick Folk
Folk was the third surprise of the day. Initially I thought Nordin was going to come down with a case of the Foxborough flu and Folk would be back. However, it now sounds like it’s Nordin’s job. The kid has a cannon, but he is going to make every field goal attempt this year a roller coaster ride. Hopefully the Pats can help him on his consistency, and we aren’t second guessing this one in October.
Overall, I was 47 of 53 for the final roster. Surprises like Newton, Folk, and Bryant caught most of us by surprise while moves with Joejuan Williams, James Ferentz, Carl Davis, and Brandon King were those backend roster moves where a case could be made either way. Regardless, this roster is hardly set in stone with the season opener 11 days away.