Patriots make cuts before 6 pm deadline

Patriots make cuts before 6 pm deadline
August 31, 2013, 2:15 pm
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November 21, 2010 and the Indianapolis Colts were in the midst of a furious comeback at Gillette Stadium. They had the ball at the New England 24. There were 37 seconds left. The Patriots 31-14 fourth-quarter lead had been whittled to three. Manning – in his last game against the Patriots as a Colt – decided to go for the throat.
 
Jermaine Cunningham made a play. The rookie from Florida, a second-round pick seven months before, came off the left edge of the defense and harassed Manning. Unable to step into his throw, Manning’s underthrown pass was picked off. It was a massive play for a young defense that – a year before had been atrocious. It was, to that point, the biggest play of the Patriots season. And it came thanks to Cunningham.
 
Saturday, Cunningham was among the fleet of players New England released to get down to a 53-man roster by 6 p.m. A very good rookie season was followed by a disappointing 2011. A decent 2012 was marred by a four-game PED suspension. A promising player with little production to show for it, Cunningham – who didn’t play this preseason because of injury – has now been given the gate.
 
His release wasn’t the only eye-opener Saturday.
 
Also let go by the team were defensive end Justin Francis – who had three sacks in the regular-season finale against Miami in 2012 – was released as well. Francis was a backup to Chandler Jones on the right side of the Patriots defense. Cunningham was a backup to Rob Ninkovich on the left side. Just 23, Francis seemed very likely to make the team.
 
Rookie Michael Buchanan and second-year player Jake Bequette – both of whom played well in the Patriots final preseason game Thursday – are now the primary depth behind Ninkovich and Jones.
 
The team also shaved its numbers at defensive tackle, letting go of second-year player Marcus Forston. Marcus Benard, another defensive lineman, was released on Friday.
 
This leaves the Patriots with Joe Vellano - a training camp surprise – Tommy Kelly, and Vince Wilfork at the defensive tackle spots currently.
 
Forston has practice squad eligibility and can expect to be re-signed by the Patriots if he goes unclaimed.
 
Also released Saturday were linebacker Ja’Gared Davis, wide receiver Quentin Sims, running back George Winn, offensive lineman and defensive backs Kanorris Davis and Justin Green. They all are practice squad eligible as well.
 
Among players perceived to be “on the bubble” who apparently have made it past the cut to 53 are Adrian Wilson, Brandon Bolden, Leon Washington, LeGarrette Blount and offensive lineman Chris McDonald.
 
Sixteen of the 40 players the Patriots have drafted since 2009 remain with the team.