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Five thoughts on Patriots’ initial round of cuts and who might still be out there to help New England

08.26.13 at 2:41 pm ET
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1. There were no surprises in the initial round of roster cuts that were conducted by the Patriots on Monday. A few thoughts regarding some of the moves:

A) The decision to place defensive lineman Armond Armstead on the reserve/non-football injury list brings some clarity to a murky situation. Armstead, a CFL export who was one of the best pass-rushers north of the border last year, hasn’t practiced to this point in camp, and the team announced early that he had some sort of surgery for an infection. (Bill Belichick indicated that whatever malady was dogging Armstead, it wasn’t related to the heart issue he suffered as a collegian.) Now, we know that Armstead’s issues are more short-term — with the reserve/NFI designation, he isn’t eligible to start practicing until after the sixth week of the season.

B) Putting rookie defense lineman Cory Grissom and second-year tackle Markus Zusevics on injured reserve effectively ends their seasons, but at the same time, speaks to just how much the Patriots believe they can help long term that they would be willing to keep them around — albeit on the shelf — for the entire season instead of cutting them loose and coming to some sort of injury settlement with them. Grissom showed a real feistiness through his first camp with New England, but reportedly suffered a knee injury in last Thursday’s game against the Lions. As for Zusevics, this will mark the second consecutive season he’ll start on the sideline. The Iowa product, who suffered a pectoral injury at the combine, started his rookie season on the reserve/NFI List before being activated on Nov. 22, 2012.

C) As for the players who will benefit the most from the personnel decisions on Monday, with Armstead on the shelf for at least the first six games, defensive tackles Joe Vellano, Marcus Forston and Anthony Rashad White likely will compete for the role of backup defensive tackle behind Tommy Kelly and Vince Wilfork. With Zusevics out for the year, that likely will open up a spot as a backup tackle.

D) It wouldn’t be a surprise to see linebacker Niko Koutouvides back on the 53-man roster sooner rather than later. The special teams ace bounced on and off the New England roster in 2011 and 2012, and his familiarity with the system, good nature and the financial flexibility he offers from a contractual standpoint means there’s a good chance he could return at some point this season.

2. As you probably know by now, the first round of cuts did not involve quarterback Tim Tebow. Tebow should get an opportunity in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Giants. Looking back through the box scores of the fourth preseason game over the last few years, it’s important to note that while Tom Brady has seen some action (he played in 2010 and 2011), it’s also a chance for the third-stringer to see some of his most extensive action of the preseason: Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett both played in 2012 and 2011, while Zac Robinson played in 2010.

3. When it comes to players getting cut loose who might appeal to the Patriots, quarterback Ricky Stanzi might be intriguing for a few reasons. First, the former Kansas City signal-caller has some experience working with former Chiefs (and current New England assistant) Brian Daboll. And second, Stanzi — like Brady — was a disciple of the late Tom Martinez, a Bay Area quarterback guru. And three, in addition to his work with Martinez, Stanzi also has another connection to the Patriots ‘€” while at Iowa, he played for former Belichick assistant Kirk Ferentz, and Belichick certainly has an affinity for student-athletes who come of age while playing collegiately for an ex-assistant (Ferentz, Nick Saban, Pat Hill and Charlie Weis).

4. There were a couple of other names who became available on Monday, including veteran wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth. The 32-year-old Stallworth, who was cut loose by the Redskins, made no bones about the fact that he loved playing for the Patriots, having suited up in New England in 2007 and 2012. (Last year, he was in on one play, a 62-yard touchdown reception against the Texans.) While it remains to be seen how much he has left in the tank, if he doesn’t get picked up, he might be an intriguing in-season addition for the Patriots if one of the young receivers ends up struggling with his transition to the pro level.

5. The Bills will start rookie quarterback Jeff Tuel in the regular-season opener against the Patriots next month. While Bill Belichick said Monday afternoon that the analysis of who might be starting for Buffalo in the season opener hadn’t really started at this point, it’s clear the Patriots have a good handle on what sort quarterback they’ll be facing. The Washington State product is a 6-foot-3, 218-pounder who had a workout with the Patriots on March 22 as part of the pre-draft process. Tuel was the most accurate passer in Washington State history, having completed just over 61 percent of his passes, and started all four seasons in college. (The only other WSU QB to start as a freshman? Drew Bledsoe.) While he struggled with injuries as a collegian — dislocated kneecap, broken clavicle and leg injuries all limited his time — he finished his college career with 5,932 yards passing and 33 touchdowns. (For what it’s worth, I believe that Tuel would have made a nice late-round or UDFA pickup for the Patriots this past spring.)

Read More: Armond Armstead, Jeff Tuel, Niko Koutouvides, Ricky Stanzi
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