FOXBOROUGH — With the last preseason game in the books, the Patriots’ coaching staff has less than two days to figure out who they want to keep for the regular season, and who they are going to cut.
At 6 p.m. on Saturday, all teams must cut their rosters to 53 players, meaning that 22 of the players that avoided being cut when the team got down to 75 on Tuesday will be looking for employment come Saturday evening.
“This is the toughest part of the job,” said coach Bill Belichick. “We go to camp with 90 guys and we go to 53, so we know that we’re going to have to tell 37 people that they can’t be on this team … It’s always hard when guys work hard, do everything you ask them to do, train hard, put forth all the effort they can put forth, and you still have to tell 37 guys that they can’t be a part of the team this year. It’s always a tough thing.”
One rookie who made a strong case on Thursday, however, was defensive end Michael Buchanan.
“I definitely felt comfortable out there tonight,” Buchanan said. “I did a lot more preparing, getting ready for this game, so I would definitely say that’s the most comfortable I’ve felt.”
The Patriots’ seventh-round draft pick played almost the entire game against the Giants, and recorded four tackles, 2.5 sacks, and one forced fumble.
“It’s been a while,” Buchanan said, when asked if he could remember the last time he had 2.5 sacks in a game. “[I think] my junior year in college. It’s been a long time, though.”
Buchanan played in all four games, recording 12 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and the forced fumble. He feels he made great strides.
“I think I’ve made a lot of improvements,” he said. “I think I have a good grasp for my job on this defense and some of what my role on this team may be. I think technique-wise and just overall, I think I made some improvements, but I still have a long way to go.”
Buchanan said that preparing more for this game helped his performance.
“[I attribute it to] my studying habits, trying to pick up different things on guys,” he said. “I knew I was going to see a number of different [offensive] tackles tonight … [I was] trying to study them all and be prepared for whatever guys are in the game.”
Knowing that this was the final action before the Patriots get down to 53 players, however, didn’t change how he approached the game.
“I think everybody thinks about it,” Buchanan said. “Every game you have to take it as if it’s the cut game, so I don’t think there was any added pressure to this one.”
Buchanan improved his overall technique against the Giants, establishing a rhythm against opposing tackles, and then changing his strategy to catch them off guard.
“That’s actually one thing my coaches have told me I need to work on as far as in the games,” he said. “I would do it in practice. I would make different moves, set guys up, but that’s really what it’s all about.”
“These tackles in the NFL are so good, you really have to work to set them up. You know, show them one thing, and then when they’re guessing on that you beat them with something else.”
Belichick and his staff now have some difficult decisions to make, but Buchanan believes he has done everything he can to earn a spot, and is willing to do whatever the coaches believe would help the team going forward.
“[I will do] whatever they ask me to do, whether it’s special teams, whether it’s pass rushing,” Buchanan said. “Whatever they ask me to do I am prepared and I am ready to do.”
“I think I’ve made a pretty good case for myself. I think I’ve played as hard as I could, and I just tried to do whatever I could to help my team win.”