As everyone should be aware, this year the NFL changed the way rosters are cut down during the preseason. Instead of multiple cuts there is only one, from 90 to 53, on Saturday September 2nd at 4pm. At first I thought this was a dumb idea. Then Bill said it wasn't. Now I feel dumb.
Last year, for example, the Pats would have had to trim their roster from 90 down to 75 before our final preseason game this Thursday against the NY Football Giants. Part of the reason I liked this format was because it made players available to us sooner. Bill is famous for many things, mostly for how often he needs to rename his boat, but one of those things is turning one man's trash into his treasure. When the other 31 teams in the league make cuts, Bill peruses the scrap pile like he's the host of American Pickers. He goes yard sale to yard sale looking for that one hidden gem that he can turn into a bona fide stud. (See Woodhead, Danny)
The sooner these players were free from their blind and ignorant former teams, the better for Bill and the better for us. So I thought. But per usual, Bill has opened my eyes with another take, because he can see in four dimensions and I can't.
"In the last preseason game, in the past, when you made that cut to 75, some of those 15 players could have had an opportunity to play in the game. Just because after five weeks of training camp, you got guys that are banged up, and you got guys you still want to watch play. So having a few extra players to give them that opportunity, actually, I think can work," Belichick said. He goes on to point out that 75 players might seem like plenty but in the preseason it's different because you're pulling out so many starters. There might be up to 40 guys you take out of the game, making you finish with 35. All of a sudden that feels really tight. You have to limit what packages you can run, thus limiting the amount of things you can evaluate. Bill continued, "So I think it kind of compresses that last preseason game. I think having more people available will allow teams to play it more like they played the first three. We'll see how it goes. I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing. Look, it gives those players another week to make an impression."
For me that is one of the keys. I figured it was bunk for the players on the bubble. If you are going to get cut you'd rather get cut sooner so you have a chance to link up with another team and maybe jump in for their last preseason game. But realistically, trying to learn a new system in a week, if there is even room for you, and making an impact in a game where teams are playing a majorly truncated version of their playbook seems like a long shot. Better you stay with you own squad and take your last shot impressing people.
Another key is this quote from Bill. "It's not that much different than what it was before. A lot of the guys that went at the 75 cut, I mean, the best players came from 75 to 53 than from 90 to 75. I don't think it's that big of a deal." Such a good point. I was all afraid that we are getting a later look at a new talent pool, but really that talent pool is coming from that final cut down. Those are the players teams are having a really hard time deciding on. Players they know should be on NFL rosters. Like DJ Foster in our case, to name one example. And the timing of that final cut down is the same, so nothing changes.
One final thought to add in favor of this new policy is injury concern. Take someone like Austin Carr, the rookie receiver we all seem to love. Bill has said a lot of nice things about Carr during camp, and has pointed out that Carr hasn't missed a single practice. Something that Bill loves. Carr was, and frankly still is, very much on the bubble to make this team. But his chances seem far greater now that Julian Edelman is lost for the season. Certainly, Carr was in no danger of being cut if we had to be down to 75 players in two days. He was always going to make it to the next round, so the example isn't perfect, but my point remains. There are cases where you have to make a decision on a player based on positional depth. And if that decision has to come earlier, an injury could totally change your outlook over night. We are loaded at wide receiver. Maybe Devin Lucien would have been chopped in this first round of cuts. Then if someone else goes down (GOD FORBID KNOCK ON WOOD WHY DID I EVEN SAY THIS) in the fourth preseason game you wish Lucien wasn't already scooped up by someone like the Bills, who are currently projecting to my mother start at wide out.
I guess in the end the mantra, as always, is In Bill We Trust.