The Bill Parcells coaching tree has always believed in a method commonly called “roster churning” — keeping guys moving on and off the team to keep everyone on their toes through the season — and so really the personnel moves are hardly even close to being over for Bill Belichick (who’s executed this style throughout his New England years) and the Patriots in 2010.
But now, we have our starting point. Here are a few things to take with you in the wake of the cutdown from 75 players to 54 …
1) It’s not often that you see a previous year’s captain cut, but that’s what happened with Sam Aiken today. Turns out he was in direct competition with Matthew Slater for a special teams-centered roster spot, and lost that battle, which is surprising since Slater’s battled injury through the preseason. Also interesting to see Eric Alexander out, with veteran Tracy White — a vet with a strong special-teams background — coming into replace him. One other player-for-player move: With Brandon McGowan going to IR, Jarrad Page, traded for from Kansas City, takes his spot.
2) The release of Derrick Burgess was the real stunner of the day, even after he looked awfully shaky in the preseason finale against the Giants. That puts Marques Murrell, Rob Ninkovich and Jermaine Cunningham in competition to start opposite Tully Banta-Cain. Won’t exactly remind Belichick of Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks. The real stunner of this move is that Burgess was one of the few on the team with a track record in a real area of weakness — The pass rush.
3) We’ve been over and over again the importance of the 2009 and ’10 draft classes to this franchise. And I can remember Robert Kraft throwing out the number “20” earlier in the offseason when talking about how many first- and second-year guys the team would carry. The boss was right on the money. In the final tally, 17 of the team’s 24 draftees over the last two years are on the club, and three more undrafted free-agents (QB Brian Hoyer from ’09; DL Kyle Love, Fletcher from this year) made it too, bringing you to an even 20. That’s 37 percent of the roster. Those gone: Rich Ohrnberger, George Bussey, Daryl Richard (from 2009); Ted Larsen, Thomas Welch, Zac Robinson (from 2010). One other ’10 draft pick, DL Kade Weston, was exposed to waivers before being moved to IR.
4) Nick Kaczur, who underwent back surgery, is on the roster, which means the Patriots are holding out hope for his 2010 return. It made sense to keep him on the roster before now, but that they decided to hold his roster spot now would seem to reflect that there’s a realistic chance he could make it back this year.
5) The 2008 draft class has some survivors in it. It was a good bet at the start of camp that only two guys from that group would make it, but Terrence Wheatley and Slater found a way to push that number to four. Wheatley is, in essence, taking Leigh Bodden’s roster spot. It’ll be interesting if he gets a legitimate shot to prove himself, being a former second-round pick. He’s kind of in the same spot he was last year — Just trade out Bodden’s place for Devin McCourty — and he was inactive for all but five games in 2009. So we’ll see on that.