Well Bill Belichick and the Patriots did it again when they stunned Patriot Nation in releasing some big names from the squad earlier today to get down to the NFL regulated 53 man roster for the 9 pm deadline. The Patriots are known to not hold sentiment to players however some of the moves made many scratch their heads. The Patriots are one of the most successful organizations in the NFL because they have been known to make the tough decisions when they need to. The Patriots remind us this is a business and Bill Belichick does “What’s best for his football team.” Let’s take a deeper look into some of the shocking cuts from today’s cut down.
Brian Hoyer- Hoyer has been the primary backup to Tom Brady since going undrafted out of Michigan State in 2009. Hoyer was known for mostly for his short passing attack and struggled with his arm strength. Hoyer was slightly undersized at Quarterback standing at 6’2. Mallett was then drafted in the third round of the 2011 NFL draft and has ideal Quarterback height at 6’6. Mallet has a much stronger arm than Hoyer and has a much better deep passing game-however, Mallett seemed to have struggled with his accuracy over the pre-season. Bill Belichick said the #2 Quarterback race was “tight”. Both got about equal snaps in the pre-season and both appeared to have their ups and downs. If you asked me who would have gotten the job I would have guessed Hoyer just because he has been in the Patriots system and knows the offense. Clearly, I was mistaken and the Pats took the more talented Mallett who is only 24 entering his second season in the NFL and is now Tom Brady’s backup. Mallett will continue to develop and hone his skills under one of the best Quarterbacks in the NFL. Still it is more shocking to me that the Patriots couldn’t get a deal for Hoyer. I fully expect Hoyer to get scooped up somewhere in the next week. I hear the Jets need a Quarterback.
Dan Koppen- I was shocked the Patriots actually brought him back in the first place earlier this offseason. My initial thought was he was brought back to star at center so that Dan Connolly would start at guard. While Brian Waters ponders retirement, maybe this is a sign that Waters will be back for another season moving Connolly on the inside. Another note Waters’ locker has been intact the way he left it all summer long. Koppen has been solid in his career with New England and has been Brady’s center since being drafted in 2003. He is now 32 and unemployed with less than a week until the season starts.
James Ihedigbo- I am not so surprised here. Ihedigbo I thought was a great depth signing but he isn’t a big factor on special teams, and would only be a back-up behind Chung, Gregory, Wilson, and at this point the emerging Nate Ebner. I really think being knicked up most of training camp also wasn’t a great thing for Ihedigbo as it allowed other guys to pass him out on the depth chart. A shame he couldn’t make it but opens the door for the younger guys.
Deion Branch- This one absolutely floored me. I am still trying to get over this one. Branch was just re-signed for a one year deal this past March. I thought for sure he was as close to a lock as you could get behind Welker and Lloyd, but again I was proven wrong. Branch isn’t what he used to be. I totally get it but Branch has a connection with Tom Brady that I’m not sure any other player (maybe Welker) on the Patriots has. Branch isn’t as fast as he used to be or maybe not even as talented, but Branch is a good solid wide receiver that knows the offense inside and out and is a great route runner.-couple that with the fact that Deion is one of the quarterback’s favorite and most dependable targets. Oh, or how about the veteran leadership he brings to the locker room? I thought for sure Branch would be a quality #3 wide receiver. If you told me Jesse Holley would make the team and Deion Branch would get cut yesterday I would have laughed in your face but it’s real. Very real. The Patriots went from having one of the deepest wide receiver positions in the NFL to now having what looks to be one of the more thin ones. Maybe the Patriots don’t need to be deep at wide receiver. The Patriots will have Welker and Branch at receiver, and Gronk and Hernandez. The Patriots still have plenty targets so I am not worried about that. The shock is the fact that Branch was cut and behind Lloyd and Welker there are unproven guys leaving us all with a ton of questions. There are a few AFC East teams that are hurting for quality receivers. It would disgust me-yet not surprise me- if Branch landed elsewhere in the AFC East.
So looking back at some of the big named cuts it appears the Patriots are trying to get younger. At each of those players’ positions they were released for younger talent. Will it pay off? Time will tell. How do you feel about the Patriots moves? Do you agree? Disagree? Fill up the comments section below and tell me what you think ! Stay tuned to Premium Pats as we monitor addition cuts leading up to the 9pm deadline tonight! Follow me on Twitter @MikeOnofrio!