Lewis Among Early Cuts

FOXBORO -- The New England Patriots began their roster cuts early, parting ways with veteran defensive lineman Damione Lewis Friday night. OL Eric Ghiaciuc has also been released.

The New England Patriots parted ways with defensive lineman Damione Lewis and Eric Ghiaciuc Friday the team confirmed. Both players signed with the team as free agents this year. The moves allow the both players a jump on pursuing opportunities elsewhere.

The Patriots have also decided to part ways with a pair of tight ends according to a number of reports. Rob Myers and Carson Butler will be released by the team this weekend.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick shared some thoughts on the decision to move on without Lewis.

"I like a lot of things about Damione and I think he is a solid guy," Belichick said via conference call Friday."He is a good player, he is smart, and he works hard. In the end we felt like we had some other people ahead of him. That's what it came down to."

Lewis, a former first round pick by St. Louis in 2001, spent five seasons with the Rams before spending the past four season with the Carolina Panthers. The 6-foot-2, 301-pound defender join the Patriots in April. He turned 32 in March.

Ghiaciuc was a fourth round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2005. THe Patriots signed Ghiaciuc as a free agent on August 4th.

We asked Bengals Insider Marc Hardin for a scouting report on Ghiaciuc as Hardin was familiar with the 6-foot-4, 303-pound lineman. Here's what Hardin told us:

Eric Ghiaciuc was an enigma during his four years in Cincinnati. He was a 2005 mid-draft selection out of Central Michigan and regarded as a smart, athletic center. But critics said he struggled too much when it came to calling out the right blocking schemes and had just average foot quickness and lateral movement in pass protection at a time when the Bengals were really slinging it with Carson Palmer. Ghiaciuc also struggled trying to pick up blitzes and he often was overmatched by big nose tackles who were able to push Ghiaciuc off his mark, which created openings for gap rushers.

These were glaring weaknesses in the physical AFC North, where quality nose tackles have been common and where Dick LeBeau's aggressive and deceptive blitz packages for Pittsburgh always seemed to overwhelm Ghiaciuc when the bitter rivals met twice a year. The Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns followed the blueprint: Disguise blitzes against the Bengals and bull-rush Ghiaciuc. Suddenly, he was a liability in all six division games.

Though Ghiaciuc started 16 games at center for the first time in 2008 -- a testimony to good health, which had been a minor problem up until then -- all that exposure against the rest of the league emboldened the Bengals with the belief that he was, at 6-4 and a soft 300 pounds, just too small for the power running attack Marvin Lewis wanted to go back to last season after the team relied too much on the passing game for three years. So the Bengals chose not to re-sign Ghiaciuc after his rookie contract expired following the conclusion of 2008. Since then, Ghiaciuc hasn't been able to stick with several teams.

Though Ghiaciuc isn't a lost cause, he apparently has yet to become strong enough in the lower body to maintain leverage against large defensive linemen, and it wouldn't hurt if he gained explosion in his upper body so he simply isn't thrown to the side. As a fill-in, the Patriots could do worse than a guy who has started 42 games in the league. There's some valuable experience there, but he's better suited in zone-blocking schemes so his lack of one-on-one skills aren't fully exposed.

There's a reason why Ghiaciuc hasn't stuck with an NFL team since the Bengals gave up on him. He's not big enough nor strong enough to do his job well against quality defensive linemen, especially when operating in passing schemes. Instead of providing quality pass protection, he puts the quarterback at risk. If he gets on the field, the Patriots might be able to run behind Ghiaciuc to some extent, but close your eyes when Tom Brady drops back to pass.

In addition to Lewis and Ghiaciuc (GUY-Chek) being released, reports indicate the Patriots have also informed TE Rob Myers and TE Carson Butler that they will be released.


For more NFL and Patriots news follow my updates via Twitter: @jscottNFL

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