Roster Battles The Only Reason To Watch

The New England Patriots made their roster cuts to comply with an NFL mandate to trim rosters to 65 players not including NFL Europe exemptions or those on reserve lists during the week. The team parted ways with three on Monday and seven more on Tuesday. They will have to drop 17 more names according to last count. No player wants to be on that list, so expect a display of desperation by some who are going all out tonight to avoid "the Turk" on Sunday.

Desperation Time for Reserves
By Patriots Insider Staff

When roster cuts come, there is an air of uncertainty and nervousness permeating locker rooms around the league. Aging veterans fidget, new players on a team wonder what it will be like, and rookies display an aura of outward uneasiness with the entire process of cut downs. While tonight's game is not roster cut down day, that same edginess exists. For this game is a make-it or break-it for a large cross-section of players, vets and rookies alike.

PI takes a look at the roster with the specific position battles to keep an eye on.

Wide Receiver

Probably the toughest group to forecast as to who will make the cut, but tonight, viewers should keep an eye out for those guys who are closest to losing the battle for reduced roster spots.

Davis vs Johnson

With the trade from Cleveland, Andre Davis should be getting a long hard look at WR on one side, with David Terrell on the other. Both players need to demonstrate why they might be more deserving than a pair of players who are already on the roster in Bethel Johnson and P.K. Sam.

Davis has the speed of Johnson while also showing he can make the tough catch… There's a highlight clip of Davis soaring over San Francisco defenders in the back of the end zone to help the Browns score a late TD and go on to victory. Not only can Davis get open by using his speed, his leaping ability, especially on that play, was amazing.

Johnson, who's been mostly a disappointment since his arrival, has also shown some potential for making amazing plays. Against Seattle in 2004, Johnson outran the defense on a 3rd and 7 go route where he was able to run under the pass from Brady to make a diving catch. The play setup a key score late in that game. Both players can make plays; the question about their skills is consistency.

Little guy vs little guy vs little guy

Fighting for the small quick wide out spot are Troy Brown, Tim Dwight and Bam Childress. Deion Branch is a lock, so it's doubtful he'll even play. Brown, the tenured veteran has already showcased his talents and versatility last season. In camp he has been a safety valve for QB, Tom Brady, and doesn't look like he's falling out of favor any time soon.

Dwight and Childress have show more benefit in the return game with amazing speed or deft elusiveness. Childress has made catches on the sideline that compare favorably to Branch or Brown for that matter. Yet Childress, when given the ball in space has the ability to make players miss. His biggest challenge will be to unseat Dwight as the returner.

Dwight, who signed on with New England over other teams after meeting head coach Bill Belichick, wants to show why he belongs on the team with the best chance to get him a Super Bowl ring. His speed is his most valuable asset, something he understands, and knows how to take advantage of.

Special Teams

Special teams spots are there for the taking. Wes Mallard has made a strong case to become a reserve linebacker, but he's going to have to unseat someone already in front of him. Whether it's Eric Alexander, Tully Banta-Cain or Don Davis, Mallard is going to have a tough time cracking the lineup as a linebacker.

One thing Mallard has that rookie linebacker Andrew Torrey does not, is experience on special teams. Torrey who ahs been injured most of the offseason, saw some playing time last week against the Packers, but is really in need of an impressive game tonight to have any shot as a member of the practice squad. Same goes for NFL Europe veteran Grant Steen. Steen loses his roster exemption on Sunday, so his play will be the only advantage he has while he struggles to remain a member of the team.

Other special teams players go to guys in the trenches… players like Dan Klecko, Mike Wright, Jed Weaver and the smaller guys like Chad Scott, James Sanders, Kyle Eckel, Ellis Hobbs and Kory Chapman look to spread out their value as both possible reserve players on offense or defense and not just special teams players.

Tight End

This battle is essentially over. Jed Weaver and Joel Jacobs are looking for ways to show that their value and future potential is worth more to the Patriots than a vested veteran like Christian Fauria. With both Dan Graham and Ben Watson penciled in as the starters, likely only one spot remains. It would be unwise to think Fauria, who has excellent hands, will not be given that spot.

Weaver's and Jacob's best chances are to show that they deserve the extra TE spot over another position, such as DB, RB, LB or line. With Belichick already complaining that a team can't keep enough good linemen on a roster, don't expect the staff to cut back there.

When it's all said and done on Sunday night, the Patriots will be releasing a number of solid players who can certainly be part of, if not start for, other teams around the league. In years past, that has not always been the case. This season, the Patriots, ironically, are cursed to have so many talented members of the roster, making cut down day even more difficult than usual. Another team is going to benefit from picking up one of those players who are desperately showcasing their skills tonight.

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