An already busy time for the Patriots only promises to get more hectic in the coming days, as coach Bill Belichick and his staff have begun making corrections from Friday night’s 30-28 loss in Tampa Bay and deciding who will play in Wednesday night’s preseason finale. They have to pare the roster to 75 players by Monday afternoon, and then to 53 by Friday night.
Sounding weary on a conference call Saturday afternoon, less than eight hours after the team returned home from its extended trip to Florida, Belichick briefly gave his thoughts.
“We’re just trying to work through the film here and get organized this week,” he said. “We have a lot of balls in the air, a lot of work to do here the next couple days. “Overall last night, it was as usual in preseason: a lot of things we can learn from. Tampa did some good things that gave us some problems. We can do a better job on those.
“Obviously we have to do a better job in the turnover department, penalty department, get away from negative plays, make more positive plays defensively, and certainly get some explosive plays in the passing game offensively — we haven’t had any of those. We have to find a way to balance off our passing game with that.
“A lot of things going on here, a lot of things to work on. We’ll just keep chugging away.”
Belichick did say there were “a lot of positive things in the game. Some plays, there were multiple things we did well. We had some breakdowns, other plays had more than one breakdown, not enough things right. I thought there were several positives in that game.”
Belichick said one of the bright spots was the play of cornerback Marquice Cole, who saw a number of snaps against the Buccaneers in the nickel package. A free agent signee who was with the Jets over the last three seasons, Cole was credited with five unassisted tackles and two pass breakups on defense as well as a special-teams takedown.
Cole has made plays throughout training camp, Belichick noted, and his performance on defense as well as his special teams ability bodes well for his chances of making the team.
Belichick didn’t give any clues as to whether he will have the starters play Wednesday, saying it will be discussed in the coming days. While typically he does not even have the starters dress for the final preseason game, last season, after a bad loss to the Lions in the third exhibition game, he did have Tom Brady and other top players take some snaps.
As of Saturday night, the Patriots had 85 players on the roster, so 10 moves will have to be made by Monday at 4 p.m. to get to the league-mandated limit of 75. By Friday night at 9, the team has to cut the roster to 53, the regular-season limit.
There are a variety of ways to accomplish that, including the obvious option of releasing players, but the Patriots also could transfer players on the active/physically unable to perform list to the reserve/PUP list, which means they won’t be available for the first six weeks of the season.
The team’s remaining active/PUP list members are defensive lineman Myron Pryor (shoulder), tight end Jake Ballard (knee), and rookie offensive lineman Markus Zusevics (pectoral).
While some teams, such as Philadelphia, Jacksonville, and Miami cut numerous players Saturday instead of waiting until the deadline to do so, Belichick didn’t say when the Patriots would finalize their first set of moves.
“I really don’t know,” he said. “We watched film here this morning; we have a lot of things to do in a very short period of time. What exactly the time frame will be and how that will play out, I don’t know. That’s one of the many things we’ll talk about in our staff and scouting meetings and so forth here over the next couple of days.
“We’ll just see how it all comes together. When we know what we’re doing, we’ll do it. We know what the deadlines are; if it happens before that, it does. If it doesn’t then we’ll do it by the deadline.”