BOSTON (CBS) — The preseason is over, and now it’s time for NFL teams to trim their roster to 53 players. Players will know if they have a job — or if they have to start looking elsewhere — by 4 p.m. on Tuesday.
It will lead to some difficult decisions that have to be made by Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and 31 other roster builders around the league.
“As Coach (Bill) Parcells taught me, ultimately that’s my decision and I do it with the help of our coaching staff, our personnel department, the people involved there. There are also some other things that are part of the decision-making process, the salary cap, things like that, that there’s some relevance – I’m not saying that’s the decision, but they’re relevant,” Belichick explained after Sunday’s win in New Jersey. “Every team is going to have to release players and that’s always hard when players have come in and have done the best they can and given you everything they have. There are some players that you’re going to have to say we don’t have a spot for, but I think we all knew that when we signed up for it. I’ve been on waivers a few times myself, so I’m familiar with that process. That’s part of the competitive nature of pro sports.”
Training camp sessions, especially joint practices, usually give those decision-makers their best evaluation of players, but the preseason games are also pretty valuable. Sunday night’s finale was the final chance for players to prove their worth in game action. Here are a handful of Patriots who helped their cause — and a few who didn’t — Sunday night against the Giants.
Upping Their Stock
Kristian Wilkerson: Wilkerson is firmly entrenched in the battle for the No. 4 receiver spot, and may have given himself the edge with a solid four-catch showing against New York. He caught all but one of the five passes that went his way, including a nice 21-yard connection with Mac Jones in the second quarter and another 27-yard snag on the team’s touchdown drive to start the third quarter. He also came up with a tackle on special teams.
Isaiah Zuber: He also made a case for that No. 4 receiver role, also catching four of the five passes that were thrown to him. Zuber was on the receiver end of Jones’ bullet touchdown pass in the third quarter.
But his case isn’t as strong as Wilkerson’s after he dropped another potential touchdown from Jones and was hit with an OPI flag later in the third quarter.
Joejuan Williams: With Stephon Gilmore out, the Patriots are a little thin at cornerback. Williams finished the preseason strong with a solid performance against the Giants, putting a big hit on tight end Evan Engram to keep him out of the end zone in the first half. Williams made his mistakes this preseason, but he showed a lot of improvement Sunday night.
D’Angelo Ross: He got the start in the slot Sunday night in place of a banged-up Jonathan Jones banged up. A few plays after Williams brought Engram down at the 1-yard line, Ross picked off Daniel Jones in the end zone to keep the Giants off the scoreboard. Most of it had to do with the great pressure that Josh Uche put on the quarterback, but it always helps your roster stock when you come down with the football in the end zone. Ross also made a trio of tackles during the New England win.
Sunday night may not have been enough to get him off the roster bubble, but Ross made a strong closing argument against the Giants.
Bill Murray: The defensive lineman out of William & Murray did anything and everything he could to make the 53-man roster this preseason. In addition to clogging some holes on the defensive line, Murray also played on the kickoff and punt teams. That could be enough to push him from the bubble to the roster.
Devin Asiasi: He wasn’t in jeopardy of being cut, but the second-year tight end improved his chances of being a factor in the offense with four catches for 64 yards on Sunday.
Michael Jackson: The corner struggled in coverage and was hit with a pair of penalties over a three-play span in the first half. With Williams and Ross playing better than him on Sunday, Jackson’s spot on the roster is in serious jeopardy.
Brian Hoyer: Brian Hoyer is what Brian Hoyer is: A glorified coach at this point in his career. If Belichick doesn’t want to carry three quarterbacks, he could always fit the veteran on the practice squad so that he can continue to have a voice in the QB room.
Gunner Olszewski: It’s unlikely that Olszewski will get cut, since he’s an All Pro return man. But he clearly is not an NFL receiver at the moment.
Gunner had a huge drop on a nice pass by Jones in the second quarter, and had zero catches on two targets.
Anfernee Jennings: A third-round pick out of Alabama just one year ago, Jennings did not do much this summer to show he’s worthy of a roster spot. With other players emerging at linebacker, he could be on the way out on Tuesday.
Chase Winovich: He got a late start this summer, so maybe that is why he played long into the second half on Sunday. But the 2019 third-round pick could be a trade candidate ahead of Tuesday’s roster trimmings.