5 New England Patriots Veterans Now on Roster Bubble Following Draft
The New England Patriots have finished making additions to their roster.
Now comes the part where they have to start making subtractions.
With 90 players on the roster as we speak, the Patriots need to dwindle it down to 53 players before the 2015 regular season gets underway. Before that can happen, the team must go through the motions in the offseason workout program, training camp and the preseason.
With an overload of defensive ends and tight ends, there are more than a few veterans at those positions who need to be looking over their shoulder. The Patriots have never been shy to cut a draft pick in the past—they cut three draft picks last year. With that in mind, it may not necessarily be the veterans who get sent home.
That being said, which veterans are most likely to be called into Bill Belichick's office to receive some bad news?
From one strong safety unexpectedly selected in the second round to another, fourth-year veteran Tavon Wilson may be feeling the pressure of the Patriots' selection of Stanford safety Jordan Richards.
Wilson has been a starter for the Patriots defense in the past, but at this point, it feels like a previous lifetime when he was lining up next to Devin McCourty in 2012. Wilson was burned in deep coverage on a couple of occasions, and he did not get much of an opportunity to prove himself before the Patriots were already looking in another direction with another surprising Day 2 selection at strong safety: Duron Harmon.
Wilson has carved out a role for himself on special teams, but his playing time on defense has been almost nonexistent. He played only 188 snaps on defense in 2014, fewer than any Patriots safety besides special teams ace Nate Ebner.
There will be a fairly deep competition for the roster spots at safety, with Wilson fighting for playing time with Harmon, Richards and incumbent starter Patrick Chung.
For the second time in four years, the Patriots added three players to their front seven in one draft. As a result, one of the three they drafted back in 2012 should be looking over his shoulder. Safe to say it's not first-round picks Chandler Jones or Dont'a Hightower.
Jake Bequette was a third-round pick in 2012, and he has enjoyed a relatively stress-free NFL career to this point.
He has played a total of 43 defensive snaps in his three-year career, according to Pro Football Focus, and has spent much of the rest of his career on the Patriots' practice squad; whether that was because the coaching staff felt he wasn't ready for a regular role on the active roster or because it simply couldn't find room, we're still not sure.
Now that the Patriots have added Geneo Grissom (Oklahoma), Trey Flowers (Arkansas) and Xzavier Dickson (Alabama) to their front seven, it might be time for Bequette to step up or step off the field. This could be his last shot to make the roster.
Pretty much everything that was said about Jake Bequette also applies to 2013 seventh-round pick Michael Buchanan.
As a rookie, Buchanan was a small part of a rotation at defensive end, but a part of it no less. He played 107 of 591 possible snaps in his first eight games, according to Pro Football Focus. That's when the Patriots signed veteran Andre Carter back to the roster, and Buchanan's role suffered as a result. Since then, Buchanan has played in only four games and has participated on only 40 snaps on defense.
Perhaps the addition of Zach Moore in last year's draft factored into Buchanan's reduced playing time, but in the long run, that's just someone else to throw into the mix in that deep competition for roster spots and playing time at defensive end/outside linebacker in the Patriots' hybrid defense.
Buchanan possesses a lot of potential in that 6'6", 250-pound frame, with an explosive first step to beat blockers to the edge and long arms to keep them at bay. Where he struggles is in his ability to drop into coverage.
Buchanan could have a niche role as a pass-rusher on third downs, but if he wants to factor into the final equation on the Patriots roster, he'll have to round out his game and become a better overall fit for the Patriots defense.
In 2013, defensive tackle Joe Vellano was thrust into a starring role on the Patriots defensive line when both Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly went down with injuries. Since then, the Patriots have stocked up on defensive tackles and may not have room for a player who was once featured on their line.
If Vellano looks around the defensive tackle meeting room, he'll see Sealver Siliga, Dominique Easley, Alan Branch, Chris Jones and rookie Malcom Brown all sitting in front of him on the depth chart. Granted, the Patriots may need more big-bodied defensive linemen than before in order to switch freely between the 3-4 and 4-3 alignments, but Vellano was hardly a factor in the Patriots rotation last year.
According to Pro Football Focus, he played only 98 combined snaps in the regular season and postseason in 2014, and he spent the rest of the season on the practice squad or as a game-day inactive. Unfortunately for Vellano, he is no longer eligible for the practice squad, so it could be do-or-die time for his status on the roster.
It feels like tight end Michael Hoomanawanui has been on the Patriots' roster bubble for a couple of years, but he finds a way to stick around. Maybe it's his knowledge of the Patriots playbook or his familiarity with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Last year, the Patriots took a very passive approach to addressing their lack of depth at tight end. They added undrafted free agents Asa Watson and Justin Jones, but neither of them ended up making the final cut for the roster. The Patriots were fortunate that Rob Gronkowski stayed healthy all season and that their depth at the position was never truly tested.
But they're not sitting on their hands anymore. They traded for Tim Wright from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just days before the start of the 2014 season, and this offseason, they signed free agent Scott Chandler and drafted Arkansas tight end A.J. Derby in the sixth round.
With a deep competition of experienced and young tight ends alike, who knows who will stay and who will go. One thing that's for sure is that Hooman should be looking over his shoulder.