The conclusion of the exhibition season brought about the advent of final roster reduction in the NFL, with organizations required to purge 22 players to reach the mandated maximum 53-man roster. Among those cut was Reggie Wayne, who requested and was granted his release from the Patriots on Saturday. Covering 12 days, his stint with the defending Super Bowl champions was short-lived for reasons only known to the parties involved, but the departure further weakens a wide receiver corps that also lost Brandon LaFell (foot) to the regular season PUP list. With Wayne out of the picture and LaFell sidelined for at least the first six games of the season, Tom Brady's WR options have been whittled down to Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, and Aaron Dobson, assuming the team doesn't make any alterations during LaFell's absence.
Another fantasy stalwart, rookie Todd Gurley (knee), was officially ruled out for the first of what will likely be a "couple games," as he approaches the end of the road in his rehab from tearing the ACL in his left knee last November at the University of Georgia. During the same announcement, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher relayed that Gurley's stand-in, Tre Mason, will enter preparation for Week 1 with questionable status due to a right hamstring strain. We'll get the first indication of Mason's availability following Wednesday's practice, but Benny Cunningham would be next in line for carries in case Fisher is without his Top 2 running backs in the season opener.
Other Injuries of Note
- Since sustaining a groin tear in early August, Arian Foster's recovery has fluctuated wildly, ranging from 2-to-3 months to as little as the first 4-to-6 weeks of the regular season. The most optimistic timeline eroded once again Saturday, when sources told Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle that Foster has progressed to the point where he may return to the field by late September or early October. Considering Week 3 lands on Sept. 27, the potential exists for Foster to miss only two contests, though he would likely need to be eased into action if he upheld such a rosy scenario. Owners must still assess the risk involved, but the 29-year-old could very well play in at least 13 games for the fifth time in six seasons, which provides the boost that owners, prospective or otherwise, have been waiting for.
- If Foster's rehab rings of the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, perhaps the Saints' backfield situation holds a bit more water. At press time, the team boasts five running backs after making the requisite modifications to the roster, implying that one or both of C.J. Spiller (knee) and Khiry Robinson (undisclosed) are in danger of missing the opener. In particular, Spiller may need additional time to heal after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery on Aug. 14, despite assertions that he'd be available in Week 1. His activity level in practice this week will forecast his ability to suit up, but the Saints could opt to ride workhorse Mark Ingram rather than introduce one of the fringe running backs (Tim Hightower or Marcus Murphy) to a blitz-happy Cardinals defense this coming Sunday.
- Speaking of mixed messages, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh had this to say Saturday about rookie wideout Breshad Perriman (knee) playing in Week 1: "I don't know. I really don't have the answer for that. I think he has a chance, yes. But whether it's to what degree, that's wide open right now. I don't know." Perriman has been sidelined since the first training-camp practice with what was initially considered a bruised right knee. Later confirmed to be a sprained posterior cruciate ligament, which can be accompanied by a 6-to-8 week recovery, he could be cleared to return to the practice field sooner rather than later. Even if that comes to pass, though, the Ravens may err on the side of caution to ensure that Perriman avoids a setback.
- After returning to practice last week, both Eddie Royal (hip) and Marquess Wilson (hamstring) are making significant progress in their respective recoveries. Of greater interest to those monitoring the Bears' wide receivers is the health of Alshon Jeffery, whose left calf strain hasn't afforded him practice reps for nearly a month. However, head coach John Fox isn't apt reveal his hand with a Week 1 matchup with the Packers on tap, as evidenced by comments made following Thursday's preseason finale: "We're gonna probably say as little as we can because we don't really want to help our [division] opponent."
- Robert Turbin has been placed on injured reserve due to a high ankle sprain, ending his fourth season before it could commence. His expected replacement, Fred Jackson, thus joins forces with former Bills teammate Marshawn Lynch, whom he will spell after back-to-back deep playoff runs and four postseason appearances in the last five campaigns. If Turbin's workload from the 2012-14 is any indication, Jackson should pick up approximately five carries and a handful of targets per game.
Notable Cuts (or Not)
- Entering training camp, Bills head coach Rex Ryan seemed to earmark Matt Cassel for the starting quarterback gig due to his veteran status, with EJ Manuel and Tyrod Taylor also in the mix. As the preseason slate progressed, Taylor inched ahead in the competition and was eventually named the main man under center, which threatened the roster spots of Manuel and Cassel. On Saturday, the final call was made, and Cassel found himself on the chopping block. After completing 13-of-15 passes for a measly 83 yards across two exhibitions, he may be hard-pressed to land another opportunity right off the bat.
- After former fourth-round pick Matt Barkley was dealt to the Cardinals for a conditional seventh rounder Friday, Tim Tebow was released one day later, much to the surprise of talking heads who believed that the former Florida Gator would be used in a situational role, namely in two-point conversion attempts. The next dominos to fall were 2014 fourth-round selection Logan Thomas and undrafted free agent Phillip Sims, as noted quarterback whisperer Bruce Arians will take a six-week flier on Barkley in order to see how he acclimates to the offense.
- Brought in to provide competition for a young and banged-up wide receiver unit, James Jones led the Giants in receiving in two of four preseason games en route to 15 receptions (on 23 targets) for 187 yards. While his performance wasn't enough to land on the 53-man roster, he'll find the free-agent waters far more rich than when he signed in late July, with the Packers and Panthers losing Jordy Nelson and Kelvin Benjamin, respectively, for the season due to torn ACLs in the meantime. Clearly, Green Bay is an optimal landing spot for Jones, who donned the green and gold for the first seven seasons of his career and boasts chemistry with Aaron Rodgers that only Randall Cobb (shoulder) can claim among the current wideouts on the roster.
- With LaGarrette Blount sitting out the season opener due to suspension, Jonas Gray was believed to have a prime chance to factor into the Patriots' Week 1 plans against the Steelers. Instead, head coach Bill Belichick will turn elsewhere after jettisoning Gray, despite a 201-yard, four-touchdown outing on his resume (Week 11 versus the Colts last season). Ringing in at 5-foot-11, 220 pounds, Brandon Bolden appears the best bet to handle the rigors of three downs in a backfield also populated by James White, Dion Lewis, and Travaris Cadet. While his preseason output (five carries for 12 yards) doesn't exactly inspire confidence, Bolden has averaged 4.6 yards per carry during his three-year career.
- Montee Ball fell steadily down the depth chart in August, with Ronnie Hillman usurping him almost immediately and Juwan Thompson easing into the No. 3 spot with an all-around showing (17 runs for 59 yards and one touchdown, four receptions for 37 yards). Ball's status as a former second-round pick may have been his saving grace, as he avoided the ax on the final cut-down day. There's no guarantee that he'll remain in Denver, though, especially if an intriguing player sits on waivers in Saturday's aftermath.
Changing of the Boot
- Kyle Brindza won the Buccaneers' kicking job over Patrick Murray.
- Josh Lambo beat out Nick Novak for the Chargers' kicking gig.
- Andrew Franks bested Caleb Sturgis for the role of starting kicker on the Dolphins.
- Dustin Hopkins lost the Saints' kicking job to Zach Hocker.