The New England Patriots cut 19 players on Saturday as the team trimmed its roster down to 53. There were a couple surprises on the defensive side of the football. The Patriots waived defensive lineman Jerel Worthy who they acquired in a trade with the Green Bay Packers and they also waived second-year linebacker Steve Beauharnais. Here's a breakdown of the Patriots 53-man roster.
Defensive line: The Patriots released veteran DT Tommy Kelly and DE Will Smith during the first round of cuts. Those two moves meant the team was happy and confidence with the progress of Vince Wilfork and fist-round pick Damian Easley. It also meant the team was turning to youth as Chris Jones, Sealver Siliga and Joe Vellano all stuck around as defensive tackles. The Patriots have two strong defensive ends in Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, but depth was a question entering into training camp. Smith was brought in to provide veteran depth, but at the end he lost out to second-year DE Michael Buchanan and rookie Zach Moore.
The Patriots decided to cut ties with DE Jake Bequette, DL Eathyn Manumaleuna, DL L.T. Tuipulotu, and DL Jerel Worthy. Worthy was a bit surprising because he does have upside. He is a player that could be brought back if he is not picked up by another team.
Linebackers: With the release of Beauharnais and Chris White, the Patriots are a bit thin at the linebacker position. Jamie Collins, Dont'a Hightower and Jerod Mayo are a very talented linebacker trio, but if one of them goes down, the Patriots could find themselves in trouble if a move or two isn't made by the start of the season. The Patriots held onto Darius Fleming after a strong showing in the preseason.
They also cut LB Ja'Gared Davis and placed LB James Morris on injured reserve. The Patriots could use Ninkovich as an outside linebacker in their 3-4 package, but expect a move or two at the linebacker position before Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins.
Defensive Backs: In the secondary, the Patriots released CB Daxton Swanson and S Kanorris Davis. On any other year, Swanson would've probably made the team, but the Patriots are stacked in the secondary. Even with Brandon Browner missing the first four games due to a league suspension, the Patriots still have a talented wave of cornerbacks to compliment Darrelle Revis. Undrafted rookie Malcolm Butler, Alfonzo Dennard and Logan Ryan can all fill that second starting cornerback position and Kyle Arrington provides veteran depth in nickel packages.
The only question remaining, is who will step up as the starting strong safety. Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon and Tavon Wilson all have the talent to claim the role. Chung and Wilson may be more reliable against the run, while Harmon has the range to be more effective against the pass. Look for Bill Belichick to get creative and use a combination of all three as well as using Dennard, Ryan or Arrington in the role. Devin McCourty locks down the starting free safety spot and special teams gem Nate Ebner rounds out the defensive backs group.
Update: Linebacker Steve Beauharnais has accepted an injury settlement with the Patriots. He has cleared waivers an can be re-signed by the team midseason. He is eligible to play on an active roster Week 1 other than the Patriots. The Patriots have also claimed DT Kelcy Quarles and undrafted rookie DT Bruce Gaston off waivers to add more depth and beef to the defensive line.