Sidelines are crowded because NFL teams are carrying 90-man rosters throughout preseason


More NFL hopefuls are getting an opportunity to stick around a little longer to showcase their skills this summer.

When the league eliminated the first two rounds of roster cuts in March, it allowed teams to carry 90 players throughout the preseason. Rosters have to be trimmed to 53 by Aug. 29. Last year, rosters were cut to 85 after the first preseason game, to 80 after the second and then 53.

“I think all coaches like that,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said about one cut. “You get an opportunity to coach the guys all the way through and that last game, they get a lot of reps. Even when we were doing four games, that last game they got a ton of reps. I just think that’s a positive thing for the guys to have an opportunity to make a living at this thing, you know, shine.”

Jets coach Robert Saleh especially likes the change because “there’s so many guys who are making late surges where you’re just not sure and you just say: ‘God, if I could just have one more week with this guy,’ and sometimes you have to let those guys go.”

It also gives coaches more available players for practices and preseason games. More starters are playing less, if at all, in exhibition games.

“Just having the bodies so you’re not wearing down these last two weeks of camp, where you can hold practices,” Saleh said. “There’s still a lot of guys battling for those back-end roster spots and special teams, and every year, it feels like it’s the same case where you’re just begging to have a few more days with certain young men and sometimes you can’t.”

Texans rookie wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson, a sixth-round pick out of Iowa State, is among the players fighting to earn a roster spot. He’s learning to play special teams for the first time in his football career to give him an advantage because versatility helps.

“I’m learning something very new to myself,” Hutchinson said. “I’m excited to see what I can do on (special teams), and excited to see if that can be a part of me helping the team out.”

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