When the Patriots released Rashad Baker and Eddie Jackson, the moves made sense. It's not that Jackson and Baker had no value, but their value to the team is limited when healthy linebackers, defensive linemen and tight ends are at the bare minimum. The Patriots hosted a pair of defensive linemen last week for tryouts. Rashad Moore, who was with the team in training camp, was the eventual choice. So New England signed Moore and released the two defensive backs.
Moore Makes Sense
Signing Moore is a good move. When Mike Wright was put on IR due to a foot injury, the Patriots took a hit in their defensive line rotation. Wright can play end or tackle, although he was better suited to be an end or a tackle rather than play the nose tackle position when Vince Wilfork took a breather. Wilfork has at least 50 pounds on Wright.
The Patriots tried to make due with Ty Warren, Jarvis Green, Richard Seymour and Wilfork. The problem was, unless the team changed alignments when Wilfork went out, then backup Le Kevin Smith would get the call. Smith just isn't the same impact player as Wright, who wasn't the same caliber as Wilfork. At some point the team needed some beef.
Enter Moore. He's big, bulky and just the right fit for duties in the middle. At 6-foot-3, 330-pounds (pushing 350), Moore is the right build to play Wilfork's position. Moore wasn't pushed around in camp, but he couldn't earn a spot because the team wanted to keep younger prospects like Santonio Thomas on the roster. Thomas washed out, and now without Wright, someone has to play behind Wilfork, someone other than just Smith.
What was it about Jackson and Baker that put them on the cut list?
For Jackson and Baker the moves were little more than a numbers game. For the past three seasons the Patriots have been unable to retain enough healthy bodies in their secondary. The issue was so severe, that Troy Brown was pressed into action as an extra defensive back. Considering it was Baker and Jackson's full time job to be a defensive back, and Brown was just there moonlighting, that didn't speak well of the team's depth.
Baker's roster spot was jeopardized when fellow special team safety Mel Mitchell returned from injury. Mitchell is faster and just as talented (if not more so) on special teams. Mitchell didn't play in the secondary much, although, scouting reports from his Saints' days indicate he could compete for playing time if afforded the opportunity. He won't get that in New England with Rodney Harrison, Eugene Wilson, James Sanders and Brandon Meriweather on the roster.
With Brandon Meriweather finding himself on the field more, Mitchell playing better on special teams, and injuries to other positions, the writing was on the wall for Baker.
For Jackson, the issue was two-fold. Randall Gay has been playing the primary role as extra defensive back, taking most of the duties a player like Jackson should have filled. Brandon Meriweather filled in as the other DB in dime situations along with Gay. Meriwether would go in when the Patriots decided not to send in an extra linebacker. With defensive back Willie Andrews already on the team's roster for special teams - and doing an admirable job-- there wasn't much space to keep a part time cornerback who only saw action in rare situations.
Jackson's most notable play was against the Eagles when he had to fill in due to healthy bodies falling by the wayside. One drive in particular stood out - not in a good way - for Jackson. He had coverage of the Eagles receiver down the deep middle of the field. The receiver took off to split the safeties and Jackson couldn't stay with him, letting the Eagle receiver get behind him for a touchdown. It was a major gaffe, and you could see Bill Belichick talking to Jackson after the play.
No room on special teams. No room on defense. Limited upside. It was Jackson's fate to be beaten out by younger defenders with possibly greater future potential, unfortunately.
Want to know why each of the players competing for roster spots on special teams beat out Baker and Jackson: Ask An Insider