FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots open the regular season against the Miami Dolphins in less than two weeks.
They have their preseason finale against the New York Giants on Thursday.
And on Tuesday, the roster was trimmed from 83 to 75 players.
The final days of the preseason are chaotic, with all the moving parts, but it’s something Bill Belichick and his personnel staff have become accustomed to.
“It’s one of the toughest times of the year for the coaches,” Belichick said. “We’re dealing with roster movement, dealing with trying to develop our scheme and get it ready for the season, not just the opener but the entire season, trying to get ready for preseason games, in this case the Giants, and also looking ahead to Miami.
“There’s a lot of balls in the air, a lot of things going on. You can’t just look at one thing and ignore the other.
“It’s a stressful time for players as we come into the cuts, a stressful time for coaches in terms of all the things I mentioned, but that’s training camp. It’s that way every year. It’s not surprise, but it’s a challenging time.”
By 4 p.m., the Patriots had cut six players and placed two on injured reserve to meet the NFL limit of 75 players.
Released were defensive backs Jemea Thomas and Travis Hawkins, receivers Derrick Johnson and Wilson Van Hooser, linebacker Deontae Skinner, and defensive lineman Ben Bass.
The Patriots placed running back Tyler Gaffney and linebacker Cameron Gordon, both rookies, on injured reserve.
The Patriots began making cuts Sunday when they released Tommy Kelly, James Anderson, and Will Smith. They cut Justin Jones on Monday.
“We did what’s best for the football team,” Belichick said. “There’s no negatives on Tommy, there’s no negatives on any of those guys — Will, Tommy, James. They all came in here, did what we asked them to do, worked hard, there’s nothing negative about those guys.”
Thursday’s game will serve as a final audition before the team must cut the roster to 53 by 4 p.m. Saturday.
When tight end Tim Wright joins the Patriots, he’ll see plenty of familiar faces.
The Patriots acquired Wright, an undrafted free agent from Rutgers, from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tuesday in the trade for veteran guard Logan Mankins — a move that sent shock waves through the locker room.
Belichick’s affinity for Rutgers players is well-documented. Wright, who signed with Tampa Bay last season, will be the fifth former Scarlet Knight on the roster, joining defensive backs Devin McCourty, Logan Ryan, and Duron Harmon, and linebacker Steve Beauharnais.
Wright, who was a wide receiver at Rutgers, converted to tight end last season and finished with 54 receptions for 571 yards and five touchdowns in 16 games.
“It’s kind of a tough situation because Logan Mankins is a great Patriot and a great player, and I’ll forever wish him and his family the best,” said Ryan, who was teammates with Wright for three seasons at Rutgers.
“But Tim’s a great young player as well, and I think he has a lot to grow and showed a lot of potential.
“You guys will see it when he gets here, but he is a student of the game, a hard worker, and he’ll prove his game from week to week.”
The stage is his
It would have been unfair for the Patriots to evaluate rookie quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo after his first few days in camp.
There were interceptions and incompletions, but that much was expected as the second-round pick from Eastern Illinois was finding his way in the NFL.
Then the progression came, starting with the game against Washington, in which he completed 9 of 13 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown. A week later against Philadelphia, Garoppolo was 6 of 12 for 72 yards with a pair of touchdowns.
Last week against Carolina, the rookie was 9 of 12 for 105 yards and another touchdown.
He was sharper, more confident, and most important, capable of moving the offense down the field.
“It’s not one day, one play, one big spike, or one big valley,” Belichick said. “Personally, I don’t think that’s a good way to evaluate players. I think when you have a big body of work — which we have 15 practices in the spring and 21 practices and three preseason games, and really four of those practices are four quality practices against another NFL team — that’s quite a few snaps.
“I’d say it’s based on the whole body of work. I wouldn’t base it on one good or bad play one way or the other.”
Garoppolo, who appears to have surpassed four-year backup Ryan Mallett on the depth chart, will have the best opportunity yet to showcase his talent Thursday, as the team said Monday he will start and play most of the preseason finale.
“I think the experience for Jimmy will be one that will just be good for him, going through the whole process,” Belichick said. “I’m sure he’ll learn a lot.
“We already have talked about it and we’ll talk about it as it continues — how it goes and what he does learn. If, when, it happens again, I don’t know. But I’m sure he’ll be able to draw from something this week that will be beneficial for him in the future.”