Heading into the 2017 NFL season, most of the talk surrounding the New England Patriots is whether or not the team could go 19-0. That alone should tell you how well rounded and talented this rendition of the Patriots is. Anything short of winning back to back Super Bowls would be a disappointment. But a team that is this well put together will have to face some tough calls in order to get down to the 53 man limit. Here are a few players who you wouldn’t think are fighting for their jobs.
1. Danny Amendola
This might come as a shock to many considering Amendola has been the definition of the perfect Patriot since arriving in Foxborough via trade a few years ago. However, with the great talent and depth the Patriots possess at the wide receiver position, Amendola might be the odd man out.
Amendola once again reconstructed his contract this offseason in order to stay with the team and is only guaranteed 1.25 million dollars this year. In the modern day NFL, that is an easy contact to cut. Also coming off a year were he didn’t produce all that much (granted mainly because he was in a reduced role), only putting up 23 receptions for 243 yards and 4 TDS and being on the back side of 30 years old, this is the exact type of player that the Patriots have moved on from in recent years.
The log jam at receiver with the recently acquired Cooks along with Hogan, Mitchell, Edelman, and potential young starters that could emerge from camp, Amendola might have already played his last game for the Patriots. The only thing that could keep him in Foxborough is that he has developed a trust with Brady over the past few years. Besides that, the writing is clearly on the wall.
2. Rob Ninkovich
Ninkovich, unlike Amendola, has been predicted to be cut by almost everyone. The veteran linebacker is highly praised and respected in the Patriots organization and locker room. Ninkovich is very versatile; he can play both inside linebacker and outside linebacker. He can rush the passer if needed and also fallback into coverage against a running back or tight end if that’s what’s needed from him. He was practically a Swiss Army knife when he was on top of his game.
However, Ninkovich is a 12 year veteran and the wear and tear has certainly shown recently. After being suspended for taking a banned substance, Ninkovich missed the first quarter of the NFL season last year. When he finally did make it onto the field he wasn’t nearly as efficient or effective as he use to be. Ninkovich only put up 32 tackles and 4 sacks during the regular season. The most alarming thing took place in the Super Bowl when the Falcons time and time again exploited Ninkovich’s deteriorating speed and ability to cover quick running backs.
While the NFL has quickly become more and more about speed, the Patriots just can’t afford to rely on Ninkovich in coverage anymore. Plus the Patriots drafted to ends in this years draft, showing that they are looking to go much younger at the end postion. As a result, Ninkovich might lose his roster spot because as we all know the NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” business.
3. Stephen Gostkowski
This seemed much more likely before the news came out that the Patriots don’t have any other kickers attending traning camp this year. I know questioning Belichick’s moves is forbidding and most of the time the media ends up looking foolish, but wouldn’t you want to have some competition for a guy who is coming off and underwhelming and frankly disappointing season? After all, one of the core beliefs of Belichick and the Patriots is that there always be competition within the organization. They even brought in competition for the greatest quarterback that ever lived but not the shaky kicker.
Although it’s highly unlikely that Gostowski doesn’t make the roster, here are a few reasons why he should be a candidate to be cut:
There was a sharp decline in Gostowski’s numbers and confidence last year. After kicking at a 94.6% rate in 2014 and then a 91.7% rate in 2015. Gostowski’s field goal percentage plummeted all the way down to 84.4% this past season. But it gets worse. Gostowski also missed three extra points in the regular season. That might not seem like a big deal, but from a guy who literally did not miss an extra point for 5 straight years: it’s a bit shocking. Plus it seemed like all the extra points missed costed the Patriots maybe not in the win column, but certainly in game.
But I digress, many people forget why the Patriots needed to complete back to back two point conversion during the historic comeback. The reason why is when the heat was turned up Gostowski shanked an extra point and greatly added to the difficulty of the Patriots comeback.
So although Gostowski seems safe, I wouldn’t be shocked if Bill decided to look at other options if Gostowski looks shaky early in pre-season.
When Jones was drafted number 60 overall in last years draft, many people believed that he could be a perfect relief for Edelman in the return game. However, that could not have been more off.
Not only did Jones not provide a spark to the Patriots return game, he couldn’t even get on the field without something terrible happening. Jones handled 19 kickoffs and punts last season and fumbled on five occasions! Three of them directly effected the game as they winded up in a change of possession. So as he failed to prove to be a relief to the Patriots receivers, he really proved to be a detriment to entire team.
His corner play was not much better. Jones only got 147 snaps at cornerback this past season and was shockingly only targeted 9 times. But when thrown at he allowed 5 catches for 84 yards and two scores. Let’s just stay that’s not starting material in the NFL. Although the Patriots are adiment in their belief that the second year in their system is by far the most important to the development of a player, Jones might have gotten himself too far into the doghouse and getting out is certainly going to be a challenge.
Although it might be a bad look to cut a player who you drafted in the second round only a year ago, keeping Jones would only hurt the team at this point and I don’t think Bill will ultimately take that risk.
Let me know your thoughts about the Patriots off season/preseason below!