The auditioning is over and the decision making is ongoing.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick along with his coordinators and assistants were busy on Friday doing final player evaluations to meet Saturday’s 4 p.m. deadline to complete the 53-man limit.
The Patriots (3-1) had a productive training camp that concluded with a 31-29 loss to the New York Giants on Thursday night at Gillette Stadium. The reigning Super Bowl champions open the season against coach Mike Tomlin’s Pittsburgh Steelers at home on Sunday, Sept. 8 at 8:30 p.m.
“It’s like this at this time of the year every year,” said Belichick during a conference call. “You take all the things into consideration that you possibly can and try to make the best decisions for your team.”
The “considerations” Belichick referred go beyond what player personnel groupings he will employ against the Steelers. “There’s a lot of
considerations that are long term, short term, the next game, games later in the year and next year,” said Belichick. “You try to do the best you can to balance it out and you can’t do it all.
“Each decision has a consequence or some kind of residual (effect). There are always good arguments for doing things one way or from a contrary point of view. In the end you try to figure out what is best for the team.”
The Patriots were adding before subtracting when they acquired offensive linemen Korey Cunningham from the Arizona Cardinals and Jermaine Eluemunor of the Baltimore Ravens in trades that involved draft picks.
The Patriots gave up a sixth-round pick to land Cunningham and got Eluemunor along with a sixth-round pick for a fourth rounder. Cunningham and Eluemunor dressed for the Giants game but did not play.
Belichick is counting on veteran offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia to integrate the newcomers and have the front operational for quarterback Tom Brady against the Steelers.
“I think Dante is a great coach, he does a great job and I feel the same way about the other members of our staff,” said Belichick. “We always try to do what we can to make our team as competitive as we can given whatever constraints there are that we have to work with at a particular time or situation.
“This the time of year when there is more player movement than any other time of the year. There will be a tremendous amount of movement here in the next couple of days and we’ve already seen some this week and we’ve been a part of it.”
The Patriots front took a huge hit when starting center David Andrews was hospitalized for blood clots in his lungs. Back-up center Ted Karras will likely start against the Steelers.
Rookie quarterback Jarrett Stidham, a fourth-round pick (133rd overall) out of Auburn, played the entire game against the Giants and completed 18-of-28 passes for 225 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Wide receivers Julian Edelman, the MVP of Super Bowl LIII, Josh Gordon and Demaryius Thomas made their preseason debuts with positive results. Thomas was a dominant factor with seven receptions for 87 yards that included touchdown tosses of 35 and three yards. Gordon had two receptions for 30 yards while Edelman had one catch for 20 yards.
Rookie free agent Gunner Olszewski was all over the field against the Giants. Olszewski played wide receiver, cornerback and returned kicks banking that his multiple attributes warrant a roster spot. Olszewski played defensive back at Bemidji State and converted to wide receiver in training camp.
Olszewski’s biggest contributions have been in the return game and he had a 35-yard kick return against the Giants. He finished the preseason with four kick returns for 95 yards and handled nine punts for 118 yards for a respectable 13.11 average.
“He is very competitive and he works hard and he’s improved,” said Belichick. “He has a long way to go but he’s made a lot of improvements and made a big jump from where he played to where he is playing now.”
Center Bodine acquired
The overhaul on the offensive line continues.
In need of interior line help, the Patriots swung a rare trade with an AFC East foe, acquiring Bills center Russell Bodine in exchange for a sixth-round pick, according to a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Bodine has started 74 games since entering the league in 2014. Bodine began his career with the Bengals and signed a two-year deal with the Bills in the 2018 offseason. He took over the starting job in Week 3 when Ryan Groy went down with an injury.
A fourth-round pick in 2014, Bodine projected as a backup in Buffalo this year. He got the start in last night’s preseason finale.
It’s unclear if Bodine will push Ted Karras for the starting center job or serve as depth behind him.
Veteran center and two-time team captain David Andrews may miss the entire season after being treated for blood clots in his lungs.