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New England Patriots Roster 2012: Latest News, Cuts, Preseason Predictions

Oliver ThomasContributor IAugust 3, 2012

New England Patriots Roster 2012: Latest News, Cuts, Preseason Predictions

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    The New England Patriots have whittled the roster to 53 men for Week 1 of the regular season. It's the harsh reality of the NFL, yet it's all part of building a winning team.

    Both newcomers and incumbents have been released. On the same token, fresh faces have been brought in to make others expendable. This constant influx ensures a competitive team, even if some dominoes will fall in the process.

    Who will be good enough to stick around? Well, that's up to head coach Bill Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio to decide.

    The New England management understands that what projects on paper is a moot point. In order to win a Super Bowl, a squad must find 53 men who can work cohesively as one.

    Here is the latest news, cuts and predictions from the Patriots' front.

August 31 Cuts

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    The Patriots have been forced to reduce the roster from 75 to 53 players this Friday. The aftermath of cuts has been noteworthy.

     

    Offensive tackle Dustin Waldron has been cut, according to Patriots.com. Waldron was another rookie free-agent cut, so his departure comes as no surprise.

     

    Defensive tackle Marcus Harrison has been released, according to Patriots.com. Harrison had an outside shot at making the roster, but it wasn't enough.

     

    Defensive back Malcolm Williams has been released, per Patriots.com. Williams has spent time on the practice squad before, so he may make a return.

     

    Linebacker Niko Koutouvides has been released, per Patriots.com. Koutouvides lost out to Tracy White and Mike Rivera at backup linebacker.

     

    Wide receiver Jesse Holley has been released, per Patriots.com. Holley was a longshot from the start, but outlasted more heralded vets.

     

    Wide receiver Kerry Taylor has been cut, according to the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe via Twitter. Taylor has previously spent time on the Pats' practice squad, so who knows where he will end up.

     

    Tight end Tyler Urban has been released, according to the Boston Globe's Greg A. Bedard (h/t Shalise Manza Young). Urban, and undrafted rookie, was battling for a backup spot at tight end.

     

    Wide receiver Jeremy Ebert has been released, reports NFL.com's Ian Rapoport via Twitter. A 2012 seventh-round draft pick, Ebert would be a steal if he could slip onto the team's practice squad.

     

    Offensive guard Jeremiah Warren has been released, according to a tweet from ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss. Warren received more money between bonuses and guarantees than any other undrafted Patriots rookie, cites Reiss.

     

    Linebacker Jeff Tarpinian has been released, per a tweet from Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. Tarpinian had a chance to make the roster in wake of Dane Fletcher's injury.

     

    Offensive guard Derek Dennis has been released, reports Christopher Price of WEEI. Dennis was let go from the Miami Dolphins during the start of training camp.

     

    Fullback Eric Kettani has been cut, reports WEEI's Christopher Price. With no fullback making the final roster, Kettani could be an asset on the practice squad, and has been signed according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald.

     

    Offensive tackle Darrion Weems has been waived, according to a tweet from the Boston Globe's Greg A. Bedard. An undrafted rookie, Weems is another practice squad option.

     

    Tight end/defensive end Alex Silvestro has been released, cites WEEI's Christopher Price via Twitter. Silvestro is another practice squad player, and has been signed, according to Price.

     

    Offensive tackle Matt Kopa has been cut, according to a tweet from the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe. Kopa is a nice lineman who could play a viable role off the practice squad.

     

    Safety Sergio Brown has been released, according to a tweet from the Boston Globe's Greg A. Bedard. The release of Brown is logical, as the team has more talented options in terms of backup safeties.

     

    Wide receiver Deion Branch has been cut, according to a tweet from the Boston Globe's Shalise Manza Young. Branch may get a call from another squad, but he will remain a Patriot in the hearts of many. It is surprising to see him leave, as the team's onslaught of wide receivers has been dismantled recently. The Boston Herald's Karen Guregian did not rule out the possibility of a Foxborough comeback for Branch:

     

    Source close to Deion Branch says the receiver still holds hope of a return to Foxboro

    — Karen Guregian (@kguregian) August 31, 2012

     

     

    Safety James Ihedigbo has been released by the Patriots, reports the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe via Twitter. Ihedigbo saw plenty of work last season as a starter and special teams player, but he didn't show much this preseason.

     

    Quarterback Brian Hoyer has been released, according to a tweet from Adam Caplan of Sirius XM NFL Radio. Hoyer was the No. 2 QB, however Ryan Mallett has come on strong and surpassed him. Somewhat of a surprise that the team was unable to trade Hoyer, but he won't be on the market for long.

     

    Center Dan Koppen has been let go, per a tweet from the Globe's Manza Young. Koppen has been delivering snaps to quarterback Tom Brady for nearly a decade, but that era has come to an end. The Globe's Greg A. Bedard tweeted that Koppen does not plan on retiring.

     

    Defensive back Derrick Martin has been cut, tweeted WEEI's Christopher Price. Martin did very little to warrant a roster spot this preseason, but he might have a shot elsewhere.

     

    Defensive end Aaron Lavarias has been released by New England, cites the Herald's Howe on Twitter. Lavarias has spent time on the Pats' practice squad before, so he might be retained.

August 28 Cuts

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    The Patriots have snipped the roster down to 75 players for the Aug. 28 deadline. The following men have been cut, while others have been placed on injured lists.

     

    Wide receiver Jabar Gaffney has been released, according to Patriots.com. It was hard to see this move coming, as Gaffney figured to be the No. 3 receiver. He shouldn't have any problem catching on with another team.

     

    Defensive back Ross Ventrone was also released, per Price's report. Ventrone has been up and down between the practice squad and active roster in New England for some time now. It wouldn't be a surprise to see him back in the organization very soon, as he provides some special teams value.

     

    Defensive tackle Gerard Warren has been cut, and according to WEEI's Price (h/t the Boston Globe's Shalise Manza Young), the 34-year-old is likely to call it a career. Warren was revered as a respected leader in the Pats' locker room. Because of his desirable qualities, Warren seems like a guy who would be on the Patriots' shortlist if an injury to a defensive lineman takes place.

     

    Defensive end Tim Bulman was released on Aug. 27, reports Price. Bulman wasn't expected to make the final roster, but could catch on elsewhere as an experienced backup lineman.

     

    Wide receiver Donte' Stallworth was notified of his release also on Aug. 27, cites Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio. Stallworth lost the depth chart battle to Deion Branch, and could make it elsewhere. At age 31, it is unclear how many more opportunities Stallworth will have left, but he's still got the speed.

Latest Roster Moves

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    The Patriots have made some notable moves since the start of July. Here is a comprehensive look at the team's recent transactions.

     

    9/5/12: The New England Patriots have placed tight end Visanthe Shiancoe on injured reserve, but he may be designated to return, reports CSNNE.com's Mary Paoletti via Twitter.

     

    9/5/12: The New England Patriots have re-signed wideout Kerry Taylor to the practice squad, according to a tweet from ESPNBoston.com's Mike Rodak.

     

    9/5/12: The New England Patriots will sign tight end Michael Hoomanawanui to the active roster, per ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss.

     

    9/5/12: The New England Patriots have released wide receiver Sam Kirkland from the practice squad, per ESPNBoston.com's Mike Rodak.

     

    9/4/12: The New England Patriots have brought back offensive lineman Jeremiah Warren to take the last spot on the practice squad, according to a tweet from CSNNE.com's Tom E. Curran.

     

    9/4/12: The New England Patriots have signed running back Lex Hilliard, per ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss.

     

    9/4/12: The New England Patriots have released center Matt Tennant, according to ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss.

     

    9/4/12: The New England Patriots have released fullback Eric Kettani from the practice squad, per ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss. With the addition of James Develin, there was no need to carry multiple fullbacks on the practice roster.

     

    9/2/12: The New England Patriots look to have signed fullback James Develin to the practice squad, according to ESPNBoston.com's Mike Rodak.

     

    9/1/12: The New England Patriots have signed defensive back Malcolm Williams to the practice squad, according to WEEI's Christopher Price.

     

    9/1/12: The New England Patriots have signed offensive lineman Matt Kopa to the practice squad, reports WEEI's Christopher Price.

     

    9/1/12: The New England Patriots have signed offensive lineman Thomas Austin to the practice squad, according to WEEI's Christopher Price.

     

    9/1/12: The New England Patriots have cut linebacker Bobby Carpenter, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter via twitter. Carpenter seemed like he had secured a place on the roster, but apparently not.

     

    9/1/12: The New England Patriots have signed wide receiver Sam Kirkland to the practice squad, per a tweet from the Boston Globe's Greg A. Bedard. Kirkland is the sixth wideout currently within the organization.

     

    9/1/12: The New England Patriots have traded a future late-round draft pick to the St. Louis Rams for wide receiver Greg Salas, per a tweet from ESPN's Adam Schefter. Salas should add depth on the back end of the roster.

     

    9/1/12: The New England Patriots have signed linebacker Jeff Tarpinian to the practice squad, per a tweet from Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. Tarpinian has experience on the active roster as well as the practice squad.

     

    9/1/12: The New England Patriots will sign offensive center Matt Tennant, according to a tweet from the Boston Globe's Greg A. Bedard. Tennant occupies the 53rd spot on New England's roster. He played at Boston College and was formerly a member of the New Orleans Saints.

     

    9/1/12: The New England Patriots have signed tight end Alex Silvestro to the practice squad, per WEEI's Christopher Price via Twitter. Silvestro will help shore up the defensive end spot as well due to his positional savvy.

     

    9/1/12: The New England Patriots have signed fullback Eric Kettani to the practice squad, cites Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald on Twitter. The only fullback on the team, it's no surprise to see Kettani back.

     

    8/31/12: The New England Patriots have placed speedy kick returner Jeff Demps on injured reserve, per Patriots.com. Demps was injured in the final preseason game against the New York Giants, and now the Patriots must find some help at returner.

     

    8/31/12: The New England Patriots have released offensive tackle Dustin Waldron, according to Patriots.com. Waldron didn't stick out as an undrafted rookie—he needed to.

     

    8/31/12: The New England Patriots have released defensive tackle Marcus Harrison, according to Patriots.com. Harrison couldn't beat out the likes of Brandon Deaderick, Justin Francis or Marcus Forston.

     

    8/31/12: The New England Patriots have released defensive back Malcolm Williams, per Patriots.com. Williams is in his second year, so he is still eligible for the practice squad.

     

    8/31/12: The New England Patriots have released linebacker Niko Koutouvides, per Patriots.com. Koutouvides is a special teams player, but he didn't show enough this preseason to make the team.

     

    8/31/12: The New England Patriots have released wide receiver Jesse Holley, per Patriots.com. Holley may have a shot elsewhere, but not with the Patriots.

     

    8/31/12: The New England Patriots have cut wide receiver Kerry Taylor, according to the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe via Twitter. Taylor re-joined the team late in the preseason and didn't have many opportunities to flourish.

     

    8/31/12: The New England Patriots have released tight end Tyler Urban, reports the Boston Globe's Greg A. Bedard (h/t Shalise Manza Young). Urban had a minimal chance to make the final roster.

     

    8/31/12: The New England Patriots have released wide receiver Jeremy Ebert, according to a tweet from NFL.com's Ian Rapoport. The Patriots' wide-receiving corps continues to be thinned out, perhaps Ebert will end up on the practice squad.

     

    8/31/12: The New England Patriots have released offensive guard Jeremiah Warren, reports ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss via Twitter. It is unclear what the future holds for the undrafted rookie.

     

    8/31/12: The New England Patriots have released offensive guard Derek Dennis, according to Christopher Price of WEEI. The undrafted rookie will be looking for his third team in just over one month.

     

    8/31/12: The New England Patriots have released linebacker Jeff Tarpinian, per a tweet from Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. Tarpinian has been solid this preseason, but the team will go in a different direction for a backup linebacker.

     

    8/31/12: The New England Patriots have released fullback Eric Kettani, according to WEEI's Christopher Price. Kettani may end up on the practice squad.

     

    8/31/12: The New England Patriots have waived offensive tackle Darrion Weems, per a tweet from the Boston Globe's Greg A. Bedard. Weems could end up on the practice squad.

     

    8/31/12: The New England Patriots have cut tight end/defensive end Alex Silvestro, according to a tweet from WEEI's Christopher Price. Don't be surprised if Silvestro lands on the team's practice squad.

     

    8/31/12: The New England Patriots have cut offensive tackle Matt Kopa, per a tweet from the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe. Nothing wrong with Kopa, just a roster crunch. Wouldn't be a shock to see him on the practice squad.

     

    8/31/12: The New England Patriots have cut safety Sergio Brown, according to a tweet from the Boston Globe's Greg A. Bedard. Brown has been a special teams player in the past, but he hasn't offered much more.

     

    8/31/12: The New England Patriots have released veteran wide receiver Deion Branch has been cut, according to a tweet from the Boston Globe's Shalise Manza Young. Branch has been one of Tom Brady's favorite targets, but his route tree is limited due to diminished speed.

     

    8/31/12: The New England Patriots have parted ways with safety James Ihedigbo, reports the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe via Twitter. Ihedigbo was striving for a spot as a backup safety.

     

    8/31/12: The New England Patriots have released quarterback Brian Hoyer, according to a tweet from Adam Caplan of Sirius XM NFL Radio. Hoyer has been the Pats' No. 2 QB for several years, but Ryan Mallett has looked like the backup with more upside.

     

    8/31/12: The New England Patriots have released center Dan Koppen has been let go, per a tweet from the Globe's Manza Young. Koppen wasn't great this preseason, and he is less versatile than other offensive linemen on the team.

     

    8/31/12: The New England Patriots have released defensive back Derrick Martin, tweets WEEI's Christopher Price. Martin has a slim chance at making the final roster.

     

    8/31/12: The New England Patriots have released defensive end/outside linebacker Aaron Lavarias, according to the Herald's Howe on Twitter. Lavarias hasn't made much of an impact this preseason.

     

    8/27/12: The New England Patriots have released Jabar Gaffney, according to Patriots.com. Gaffney seemed to have secured a spot with Donte' Stallworth being released, but there's always at least one head-scratching move during cut-downs with the Patriots.

     

    8/27/12: The New England Patriots have claimed first-year wide receiver Kerry Taylor from the Minnesota Vikings, reports Patriots.com. With a late start, Taylor won't have an easy go of things. However, he could end up on the practice squad if everything falls into place.

     

    8/27/12: The New England Patriots have placed veteran cornerback Will Allen on injured reserve, per Patriots.com. Allen had a decent chance of making the team as a depth player, but won't suit up for the Pats this year.

     

    8/27/12: The New England Patriots have put undrafted rookie Markus Zusevics on the reserve/non football injury list, per Patriots.com. He will remain in the organization's wings as he recovers from a pectoral injury.

     

    8/27/12: The New England Patriots have placed defensive tackle Myron Pryor on the reserve/PUP list, cites Patriots.com. He will spend at least the first six weeks of the regular season as an inactive member of the Patriots. Afterwords, the Patriots will have three weeks to make a decision on his health.

     

    8/27/12: The New England Patriots have placed injured tight end Jake Ballard on the reserve/PUP list, according to Mike McDermott of the Providence Journal. Ballard won't count against the team's roster limit until Week 6. At that time, the team could activate him if healthy or place him on injured reserve.

     

    8/27/12: The New England Patriots have placed fullback Spencer Larsen on injured reserve, per Patriots.com. Fullback isn't a completetly necessary position for the Patriots and Larsen has been in and out of practice this preseason.

     

    8/27/12: The New England Patriots have released defensive end Tim Bulman, reports Christopher Price of WEEI. Bulman's cut didn't come as a shock, because there's plenty of depth at defensive end.

     

    8/27/12: The New England Patriots have cut wide receiver Donte' Stallworth, cites Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio. He had about a 50 percent chance of making the cut, but Deion Branch showed more reliable hands this preseason.

     

    8/27/12: The New England Patriots have placed safety Josh Barrett on injured reserve according to Patriots.com. Barrett failed to stick apart from the rest this preseason and hasn't shown much in previous seasons in New England.

     

    8/26/12: The New England Patriots waived Ross Ventrone, per Christopher Price's report. Ventrone, who was waived due to injury, cleared waivers and has been placed on the team's injured reserve, per ESPNBoston.com's Field Yates. According to Sirius XM NFL Radio's Adam Caplan via Twitter, Ventrone has been removed from injured reserve with an injury settlement.

     

    8/26/12: The New England Patriots have released defensive tackle Gerard Warren according to WEEI's Price (h/t the Boston Globe's Shalise Manza Young). Warren wasn't assured a roster spot, but he's shown in the past that he's still a steady contributor.

     

    8/21/12: The New England Patriots released defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene, offensive tackle Kyle Hill and kicker Chris Koepplin, according to a tweet from ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss. While the release of Hill and Koepplin are no surprise, it's very unexpected to see the team let go of Fanene, who was a versatile defensive end and defensive tackle.

     

    8/20/12: The New England Patriots have released offensive tackle Kyle Hix, reports ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss. Hix had an outside shot at making the team and now that Sebastian Vollmer is healthy, there wasn't as much need for an extra tackle in practice.

     

    8/17/12: The New England Patriots have agreed to terms with Jeff Demps, an Olympic silver medalist and former Florida Gator, per ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss and Mike Rodak. Demps is a speedy returner who will factor into the final cut.

     

    8/13/12: The New England Patriots have released former practice squad wide receiver Britt Davis, according to ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss. Davis injured his shoulder in the Pats' first preseason game and Reiss reports that he has agreed to an injury settlement longshot wideout. The team also waived injured linebacker Dane Fletcher, who tore his ACL Week 1 of the preseason. Fletcher was a solid depth-guy at inside linebacker, but he went unclaimed and will revert to the team's injured reserve, per ESPNBoston.com's Mike Rodak.

     

    8/8/12: The New England Patriots have signed rookie offensive lineman Kyle Hill, reports Patriots.com. Hill fills a need, as the team's depth on the offensive line has been thin in camp. While he's no sure thing to make the final roster, Hill will see some playing time this preseason.

     

    8/5/12: The New England Patriots have released running back Kareem Huggins, just one day after he was signed, reports ESPNBoston.com's Field Yates.

     

    8/4/12: The New England Patriots announced that guard Robert Gallery has retired and fullback Tony Fiammetta has been placed on exempt/left squad. To fill those two spaces, the team signed defensive back Derrick Martin and running back Kareem Huggins, per Patriots.com. The news about Robert Gallery and Tony Fiammetta was unexpected, as both could have made the team. With a late start, Derrick Martin and Kareem Huggins have their work cut out for them.

     

    8/2/12: The New England Patriots have claimed rookie offensive tackle Dustin Waldron off waivers from the Miami Dolphins. To make room, the team placed center Jamey Richard on injured reserve, according to Patriots.com. Earlier in the day, rookie offensive guard Derek Dennis was also signed, per Patriots.com. Waldron and Dennis should get some more reps in practice with the offensive line becoming a personnel weakness.

     

    7/27/12: The New England Patriots have signed offensive tackle Darrion Weems, according to a tweet from the Boston Globe's Greg A. Bedard. As an undrafted rookie out of the University of Oregon, Weems has an uphill climb to make the final roster behind tackles Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer and Marcus Cannon.

     

    7/25/12: The New England Patriots have signed defensive lineman Tim Bulman, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and released running back Joseph Addai, per Patriots.com. Bulman is a longshot to make the roster on a deep defensive line, but Shiancoe's odds are better if he can encrust a role as the Pats' third tight end. The releasing of Addai was a surprise, as he was expected to provide leadership to New England's backfield.

     

    7/23/12: The New England Patriots have re-signed exclusive rights defensive tackle Kyle Love, reports ESPNBoston.com's Mike Rodak. Love inked a one-year tender and will solidify the starting defensive tackle position alongside Vince Wilfork for at least another season.

     

    7/20/12: The New England Patriots have released undrafted rookie wide receiver Matt Roark, according to Patriots.com. The 6'5" Kentucky product's best crack at making the team was as a member of the practice squad.

     

    7/18/12: The New England Patriots have signed 2012 first-round draft selection Dont'a Hightower. The University of Alabama linebacker reached a deal with the New England before training camp started—a good sign for his immediate impact.

Final 53-Man Roster and Projected Depth Chart

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    The Patriots' final roster and depth chart are in the early stages of development.

    (Note: Players on injured reserve are not listed, and asterisks indicate who currently does not count against the roster limit.)

     

    QB (2): Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett

    HB (4): Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden

    FB (1): Lex Hilliard

    WR (5): Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater, Greg Salas

    TE (5): Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Visanthe Shiancoe, Daniel Fells, Jake Ballard*

    LT (2): Nate Solder, Markus Zusevics*

    LG (3): Logan Mankins, Ryan Wendell, Donald Thomas

    C (2): Dan Connolly, Nick McDonald

    RG (1): Brian Waters*

    RT (2): Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon

    LE (3): Rob Ninkovich, Jermaine Cunningham, Justin Francis

    LDT (2): Kyle Love, Ron Brace

    RDT (3): Vince Wilfork, Myron Pryor*, Marcus Forston

    RE (4): Chandler Jones, Trevor Scott, Brandon Deaderick, Jake Bequette

    SLB (2): Dont'a Hightower, Tracy White

    MLB (2): Brandon Spikes, Mike Rivera

    WLB (1): Jerod Mayo

    LCB (2): Devin McCourty, Sterling Moore

    RCB (4): Ras-I Dowling, Kyle Arrington, Alfonzo Dennard, Marquice Cole

    FS (2): Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson

    SS (2): Patrick Chung, Nate Ebner

    PK (1): Stephen Gostkowski

    P (1): Zoltan Mesko

    LS (1): Danny Aiken

Last 5 in

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    If the regular season started tomorrow, here are five players on the bubble who would make the cut.

     

    Running back Brandon Bolden went undrafted out of Ole Miss, but he's found a home in Foxborough. With Joseph Addai no longer in the fold, Bolden has a great chance to make the Patriots as the No. 4 halfback behind Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen.

     

    Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was chosen by the Patriots in Round 7 of the 2012 draft. Although, the 5'10", 200-pound defensive back has the promise of a second-round choice. He provides New England with a valuable corner on the back end of the depth chart if he can hold down a job in camp.

     

    Linebacker Bobby Carpenter hasn't panned out as a former first-round draft selection. But with the Patriots, he's fit the billing as a versatile linebacker with special teams capabilities. According to the Boston Globe's Greg A. Bedard, Carpenter was one of 10 players rewarded with a front-row parking spot at Gillette Stadium for his performance in offseason workouts.

     

    Safety Nate Ebner was held out of minicamps and the start of training camp, but has gotten a chance to play this preseason. The coaching staff trusts Ebner enough to put him on the first-team kickoff coverage unit. He's also gotten some reps at safety and the sixth-round pick could make the roster as the fifth safety.

     

    Tight end Daniel Fells could end up as the Pats' No. 3 blocking tight end. Without a fullback on the roster, Fells could be in line for a job on the final roster. Although Visanthe Shiancoe is in the same boat, Fells's blocking expertise should help his odds.

Last 5 out

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    The Patriots have some fringe players who are close to missing the cut. Based on positional wealth, the following players could be leaving Foxborough soon.

     

    Center Dan Koppen has some work to do to make the final roster. While Dan Connolly, Donald Thomas, Nick McDonald and Ryan Wendell can play multiple positions, Koppen is strictly capable of playing center. Due to this factors, Koppen has returned his playbook.

     

    Defensive Tackle Ron Brace hasn't had the career the Patriots hoped for when they selected him in the second round of the 2009 draft. In three seasons, the 6'3", 330-pound Boston College product has totaled just 35 tackles, no sacks and one forced fumble. Now, he must impress in camp just to land a backup defensive tackle job behind Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love.

     

    Wide receiver Donte' Stallworth is in his second stint with the Patriots—but this one may not last as long as the first. The 31-year-old has seen his numbers drop off, and it's speculated that he's lost some speed, per ESPNBoston.com's Mike Rodak. With inconsistent hands, Stallworth is no longer on the team.

     

    Wide Receiver Deion Branch is 33 years old and may not be the player he once was, and he has been let go as a result. No longer a threat beyond 10 yards, Branch's familiarity with the offense was not enough to save him from the Turk.

     

    Safety Sergio Brown hasn't looked good in training camp, as the Boston Globe's Greg A. Bedard points out:

    Sergio Brown’s odds of making the team seem to be diminishing. It looks like Josh Barrett is taking many of Brown’s spots on special teams. Brown’s play on those units were a bright spot last season.

    Brown is in his third season with the Patriots. The Notre Dame product is not the best defensive back in coverage, but his special teams play has helped him hold down a job. Now it appears that's been taken away from him.

Quarterbacks

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    QBs on roster: Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett

    Projected starter: Tom Brady

    Offseason additions: Mike Hartline was signed on January 12 to a future contract, via ESPNBoston.com's Mike Rodak. In March, Brian Hoyer was re-signed, reports ProFootballWeekly.com.

    Roster cuts: Mike Hartline was released on May 15, per Patriots.com. Brian Hoyer was released on Aug. 31, according to NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal.

    Projected final roster: Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett

     

    Tom Brady clearly owns the rights to starting quarterback spot, but the field behind him is a little less secure.

    Michigan State's Brian Hoyer was entering his fourth season with the Patriots, but has since been released. As a result, 2011 third-round draft pick Ryan Mallett will be the No. 2 QB. Mallett was essentially red-shirted as a rookie, but may see a spike in action this year. The 6'6", 245-pound Arkansas Razorback has a cannon for an arm and is of prototypical size for an NFL quarterback.

    The battle for second-string was something to watch in during training camp. And Bill Belichick seemed to like the idea of a competition when he spoke on Sirius XM NFL Radio on July 29, via ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss:

    I think it’s very competitive. Both guys have had good springs. Ryan, again, had less time last year to prepare. This year, he is much further ahead in terms of understanding the offense, adjustments, and knowing the league, and getting matchups and so forth.

    In hindsight, Belichick was right. This competition was very competitive.

Halfbacks

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    HBs on roster: Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden

    Projected starter: Stevan Ridley

    Offseason additions: The Patriots signed veteran Joseph Addai in May, according to CBSSports.com's Ryan Wilson. On August 4, Kareem Huggins was signed, per Patriots.com. The team has also agreed to terms with undrafted Olympian Jeff Demps, reports ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss and Mike Rodak. 

    Roster cuts: Joseph Addai was subsequently released in July as training camp opened after failing a physical, courtesy of Mike Reiss and Mike Rodak of ESPNBoston.com. On August 5, the team released running back Kareem Huggins, reports ESPNBoston.com's Field Yates.

    Projected final roster: Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden

     

    With BenJarvus Green-Ellis now with the Cincinnati Bengals, the door has been opened for another tailback to earn the starting gig. However, the running back-by-committee approach may be a more effective way to utilize the talented backfield.

    ESPNBoston.com's Field Yates offered his insight on the Pats' rushers:

    While the Patriots don’t feature a bona fide star from the backfield, the team is well stocked with players that can contribute in a number of phases. Given the makeup of the offense in recent years, a continued reliance on a number of different backs would come as no surprise in 2012.

    Regardless of how the halfback attack is managed, expect last year's second-round pick Shane Vereen and third-rounder Stevan Ridley to have a larger impact in the offense.

    But other guys can't be counted out.

    Danny Woodhead has shifty burst and Brandon Bolden is known for his downhill running. Jeff Demps prides himself on his blazing speed, but he's been placed on injured reserve..

    The team signed the lightning-quick Kareem Huggins, but he was gone just a day later. Huggins hasn't played in a regular-season game since 2010 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Whoever dominates in preseason and training camp will warrant the No. 1 job. Although, the pie could still be divvied up among the ball-carriers.

Fullbacks

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    FBs on roster: Lex Hilliard

    Projected starter: Lex Hilliard

    Offseason additions: Eric Kettani was re-signed in February, via Mike Reiss and Mike Rodak of ESPNBoston.com. In March, Spencer Larsen was signed, according to a tweet from the Boston Globe's Greg A. Bedard. Soon after, Tony Fiammetta was brought in, per Bedard. Lex Hilliard has been signed, per ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss.

    Roster cuts: Lousaka Polite was released in March, reports Patriots.com. Tony Fiammetta has been placed on the reserve/left squad list. According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun (h/t Matt Pepin of the Boston Globe), Spencer Larsen has been cut. Eric Kettani has been cut, reports WEEI's Christopher Price.

    Projected final roster: Lex Hilliard

     

    Odds are, at best, only one fullback will be on the roster come September. Spencer Larsen is no longer active and Eric Kettani was the latest to be cut.

    While Larsen has logged some significant NFL time, Eric Kettani's experience has come from a different field of work: the Navy. A Bill Belichick-type of player, Kettani is a hard worker and does all that's asked of him. Kettani could be a practice squad guy.

    Tony Fiammetta was thought to be another experienced blocker for New England's arsenal. However, other issues have gotten in the way, according to a tweet from ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss:

     

    On Tony Fiammetta, source says he will notplay in 2012 due to family issue. Hopes to return to Pats in 2013.

    — Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) August 4, 2012

     

    The 2009 fourth-round pick has played for the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys. In his three pro seasons, he's started 17 games on his way to accumulating 26 rushing yards and 73 receiving yards. But he will not be on the Patriots this year.

    The fullback position may be dying out across the NFL. With the Patriots, it's no different. However, Lex Hilliard is now on the squad and trying to make an impact.

Wide Receivers

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    WRs on roster: Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater, Greg Salas

    Projected starters: Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker

    Offseason additions: According to Patriots.com, Matthew Slater was re-signed on March 15. On March 17, the New England signed Anthony Gonzalez. The Patriots announced the signing of Brandon Lloyd on March 20. Donte' Stallworth inked a deal three days later, and Deion Branch re-signed soon after. In April's draft, Jeremy Ebert was selected by the Pats in Round 7. Undrafted rookie Matt Roark joined the team in May. In that same month, Wes Welker signed his franchise tender. And by June, the team reached an agreement with free agent Jesse Holley. The Patriots claimed Kerry Taylor off waivers on Aug. 27, per Patriots.com. Greg Salas has been aquired in a trade which sent a future late-round draft pick to the St. Louis Rams, per a tweet from ESPN's Adam Schefter.

    Roster cuts: Via Patriots.com, the Patriots released Tiquan Underwood on May 3. Anthony Gonzalez was let go on May 29. On June 7, Chad Ochocinco (now Chad Johnson) was cut. And once rookies reported to training camp, Matt Roark was cut. On August 13, the team reached an injury settlement with Britt Davis, per ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss. Donte' Stallworth was cut, per Mike Cole of NESN.com. On Aug. 27, Jabar Gaffney was released, according to Patriots.com. Deion Branch has been cut, according to NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal. has been released. Jeremy Ebert has been cut, reports NFL.com's Ian Rapoport via Twitter. Kerry Taylor has been cut, according to the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe via Twitter. Wide receiver Jesse Holley has been released, per Patriots.com.

    Projected final roster: Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater, Greg Salas

     

    The wide receiving corps is an absolute asset for the Patriots. Brandon Lloyd should spread the field, while Welker will continue to cause damage underneath. But the story doesn't end there, as some serious camp battles are brewing behind them.

    Greg A. Bedard of the Boston Globe envisioned recently released wideouts Deion Branch and Donte' Stallworth going at it for the No. 5 wideout spot. He also pinned late-round draft pick Jeremy Ebert up against the multifaceted Julian Edelman and now-cut receiver Britt Davis.

    Things now appear a little more obscure, since Branch, Stallworth, Jabar Gaffney, Jeremy Ebert, Kerry Taylor and Jesse Holley are no longer on the roster.

Tight Ends

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    TEs on roster: Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Visanthe Shiancoe, Daniel Fells, Jake Ballard, Michael Hoomanawanui

    Projected starters: Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez

    Offseason additions: Per Patriots.com, Daniel Fells came aboard in March. Undrafted rookie Brad Herman joined the team in early May, but he was placed on injured reserve soon after. On May 29, rookie Nick Melillo was also added. Former Tennessee Titans tight end Bo Scaife signed in June. Tyler Urban, another undrafted rookie was signed later on. And in a surprising move, New England claimed the injured Jake Ballard off waivers from the New York Giants. The Patriots even signed Visanthe Shiancoe in late July. According to the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe, Alex Silvestro has made the switch from defensive end to tight end. Michael Hoomanawanui was been signed to the active roster, per ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss.

    Roster cuts: According to Patriots.com, New England announced that Nick Melillo had been released on June 7. Shortly thereafter, Bo Scaife was cut. Alex Silvestro was released on Aug. 31, according to a tweet from WEEI's Christopher Price. Tyler Urban was cut as well, per the Boston Globe's Greg A. Bedard (h/t Shalise Manza Young).

    Projected final roster: Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Daniel Fells, Visanthe Shiancoe, Michael Hoomanawanui

     

    New England's two-tight end set makes for a deadly aerial attack as Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez create matchup problems for defenses.

    However, this preseason is not about the two 2010 draft picks. It's about the competition for the third tight end job between Visanthe Shiancoe and Daniel Fells.

    Shiancoe brings a productive pedigree to New England. Although the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe analyzed the obstacle ahead:

    But he’s got a big battle ahead of him in terms of trying to make a team that has two of the game’s best tight ends and another, Daniel Fells, who got a $1 million signing bonus earlier this offseason.

    Right now, Fells gets the edge for the third tight end spot because he's a more dependable blocker. However, Shiancoe also makes the cut due to roster space.

    On the outside looking in is Jake Ballard, who had microfracture and ACL surgery in February, according to CBSSports.com's Josh Katzowitz. Ballard is more of an injured reserve or physically unable to perform option for this year. Yet he would be a viable piece for the 2013 squad.

Offensive Tackles

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    OTs on roster: Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, Markus Zusevics

    Projected starters: Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer

    Offseason additions: According to Patriots.com, undrafted rookie Markus Zusevics joined the team in mid May. On May 18 undrafted rookie Jon Opperud signed with the club. In June, Mike Ingersoll agreed to a deal. In late July, rookie Darrion Weems signed a pact with the Patriots. Patriots also claimed rookie offensive tackle Dustin Waldron off waivers from the Miami Dolphins on August 2. Undrafted lineman Kyle Hill was signed on August 8.

    Roster cuts: Patriots.com indicates that Jon Opperud was released in early June. On June 19, Mike Ingersoll was cut as well. On August 20, the team released offensive tackle Kyle Hix, reports ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss. Reiss also reported on August 21 that Kyle Hill has been let go. Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reports that Matt Kopa has been cut. Darrion Weems has been waived, according to a tweet from the Boston Globe's Greg A. Bedard. Dustin Waldron has been cut, according to Patriots.com.

    Projected final roster: Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon

     

    Matt Light, New England's longtime left tackle, retired this offseason. As a result, Tom Brady's blindside will be protected by 2011 first-round pick Nate Solder. That's the lead story out of the offensive tackle group.

    Shalise Manza Young of the Boston Globe took a gander at New England's edge blockers:

    The Patriots had just three tackles on the roster last season, but Vollmer’s history of back problems give pause. Free-agent pickup Robert Gallery does have experience playing tackle, so New England could go with just three again this year.

    As it stands now, Solder, Vollmer and Cannon are the safest bets.

Offensive Guards

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    OGs on roster: Logan Mankins, Brian Waters, Ryan Wendell, Donald Thomas

    Projected starters: Logan Mankins, Brian Waters

    Offseason additions: Per Patriots.com, Robert Gallery signed in March. Undrafted rookie Jeremiah Warren agreed to terms with the organization in early May. On August 2, rookie offensive guard Derek Dennis was signed.

    Roster cuts: Derek Dennis has been released, reports Christopher Price of WEEI. Jeremiah Warren has also been cut, according to a tweet from ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss.

    Projected final roster: Logan Mankins, Brian Waters, Ryan Wendell, Donald Thomas

     

    Offensive guard is a very uncertain position for the Patriots. Left guard Logan Mankins is working himself back from ACL surgery, and right guard Brian Waters has not reported to camp.

    Will Mankins have a setback? Will Waters return at all?

    Either case would force the Pats to dig deep for big men.

    They will have search with vigilance, even more so now that Robert Gallery has decided to retire. NFL.com's Ian Rapoport offered an explanation via Twitter:

     

    Why did Robert Gallery retire? Source says Gallery felt his body would not be able to handle training camp/season. Too much wear & tear

    — Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 4, 2012

     

    If worst comes to worse, New England has an experienced plug-and-play lineman in Dan Connolly. Connolly is capable of stepping in for Mankins and Waters. However, replacing two Pro Bowlers won't be a turn-key operation.

Centers

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    OCs on roster: Dan Connolly, Nick McDonald

    Projected starter: Dan Connolly

    Offseason additions: According to Patriots.com, Dan Connolly was re-signed on March 20. In April, tenured starting center Dan Koppen returned to the Patriots. For good measure, the team also added Jamey Richard, although Richard was placed on injured reserve August 2. On Sept. 1, the team acquired Matt Tennant, according to a tweet from the Boston Globe's Greg A. Bedard.

    Roster cuts: Dan Koppen has been cut, according to NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal. On Sept. 4, Matt Tennant was also released, per ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss.

    Projected final roster: Dan Connolly, Nick McDonald

     

    Dan Koppen and Dan Connolly scratched and claw for the No. 1 center job. But Connolly looks to be the winner.

    Last year, it was 29-year-old Connolly who served as the stopgap after Koppen was placed on injured reserve. He acclimated to the position and ended up starting 13 regular-season games.

    The 32-year-old Koppen was trying to regain the starting role—an accomplishment he's held down since being a rookie out of Boston College in 2003. Although he has come up short.

    Mike Rodak of ESPNBoston.com found this battle to be the most intriguing of training camp:

    What really makes this position curious was the team’s decision to re-sign Dan Connolly to a three-year, $9.7 million deal, bring back Koppen on a two-year, $6 million deal, and also ink Robert Gallery to a free-agent contract. 

    Add in dependable reserve and spot starter Ryan Wendell, and it’s too many players, too much money, for too few spots. 

    With Brian Waters nowhere to be found, Connolly has been taking reps at right guard. That opens up space for Ryan Wendell and Nick McDonald to play backup center and guard. Since depth has become an issue, both are solid reserves.

Defensive Ends

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    DEs on roster: Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, Trevor Scott, Jermaine Cunningham, Jake Bequette, Brandon Deaderick, Justin Francis

    Projected starters: Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones

    Offseason additions: According to Patriots.com, Trevor Scott signed with the Patriots on March 19. Jonathan Fanene signed with New England soon after. On May 10, it was undrafted rookie Justin Francis who agreed to a deal. Days later, 2012 first-round pick Chandler Jones signed his contract with the team. In June, this year's third-rounder Jake Bequette put the pen to the paper. In late July, veteran lineman Tim Bulman joined the squad as well.

    Roster cuts: New England released Markell Carter in June, reports ESPNBoston.com. On August 21, the team released Jonathan Fanene, per ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss. Tim Bulman was released on Aug. 27, reports WEEI's Christopher Price. According to a tweet from the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe, Aaron Lavarias has been cut.

    Projected final roster: Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, Jermaine Cunningham, Trevor Scott, Jake Bequette, Brandon Deaderick, Justin Francis

     

    After a season where Andre Carter and Mark Anderson combined for 20 sacks, things look vastly different at defensive end for the Patriots.

    For starters, Carter is a free agent and Anderson is a Buffalo Bill.

    To revitalize the edge rushers, New England went out and picked up Trevor Scott from the Oakland Raiders and Jonathan Fanene from the Cincinnati Bengals. Scott is an agile, hybrid outside linebacker, while Fanene is more of a heavyweight bookend.

    However, Fanene was surprising cut after the team's second preseason game, so the line is still doing some renovating.

    But by drafting two promising pass rushers in Syracuse's Chandler Jones and Arkansas' Jake Bequette, the Patriots have received a booster shot of youth.

    Right now, anyone could win a starting gig. The competition is wide open.

    Field Yates of ESPNBoston.com found the defensive end depth chart to be loaded with unique talents:

    Scott, Ninkovich and Fanene are all proven veteran players, with Scott and Fanene in particular having experience at the end position (Ninkovich has had his most success as a 3-4 outside linebacker). Jones adds an element of dynamic athleticism, while Bequette was praised in some pre-draft scouting reports for his polish. In this group of five players, the Patriots appear to have a blend of toughness, explosion and capable run defenders and pass rushers. 

    As for ends like Jermaine Cunningham, Brandon Deaderick and Justin Francis, they make the cut due to solid preseasons.

Defensive Tackles

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    DTs on roster: Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Myron Pryor, Ron Brace, Marcus Forston

    Projected starters: Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love

    Offseason additions: According to Patriots.com, the team re-signed Gerard Warren signed Marcus Harrison in March. In May, undrafted rookie Marcus Forston signed with the Pats. And in June, Kyle Love was re-signed as an exclusive rights free agent.

    Roster cuts: Gerard Warren has been cut, and according to WEEI's Christopher Price (h/t the Boston Globe's Shalise Manza Young). Marcus Harrison has been released, according to Patriots.com.

    Projected final roster: Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Ron Brace, Marcus Forston

     

    The Patriots have one of the NFL's best nose tackles in Vince Wilfork. And by his side is 2010 undrafted Mississippi State product Kyle Love, whose play has earned him a starting job.

    Behind that thick wall of lane clogging is a slew of men trying to make the team as backups. Gerard Warren was a favorite due to his familiarity in the system, but injury-plagued 2009 draft picks Ron Brace and Myron Pryor have outlasted him.

    This will be a make-or-break preseason for anyone other than Wilfork and Love. Yet it's especially critical for Brace and Pryor to prove themselves as former Patriots' draft choices.

Outside Linebackers

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    OLBs on roster: Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower, Tracy White

    Projected starters: Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower

    Offseason additions: According to Patriots.com, New England re-signed Tracy White in March. In April , the team agreed with Bobby Carpenter. The team also signed first-round draft choice Dont'a Hightower this June.

    Roster cuts: Jeff Tarpinian has been released, per a tweet from Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. Niko Koutouvides has been released, per Patriots.com. Bobby Carpenter has been cut, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter via twitter.

    Projected final roster: Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower, Tracy White

     

    The Patriots are lucky to have a starting outside linebacker like Pro Bowler Jerod Mayo. Not to mention, the organization has an exciting, NFL-ready first-round pick in Dont'a Hightower.

    The man expected to seize the No. 3 spot backing up Mayo and Hightower was Bobby Carpenter. The 29-year-old has been around the league for a while and hasn't lived up to expectations, but the Patriots have let the former Ohio State Buckeye go.

    Who earn backup duties now? Tracy White has been a special teams stalwart in the past and will be on the team for September's opener.

Middle Linebackers

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    MLBs on roster: Brandon Spikes, Mike Rivera

    Projected starter: Brandon Spikes

    Offseason additions: Mike Rivera was signed to a future contract in February, per the Boston Herald.

    Roster cuts: Dane Fletcher was waived following a torn ACL. He went unclaimed and well be on the club's injure reserve for the season, according to ESPNBoston.com's Mike Rodak.

    Projected final roster: Brandon Spikes, Mike Rivera

     

    Brandon Spikes was just hitting his stride during the Patriots' last postseason run. He ended the playoffs with 26 tackles, a sack, a fumble and an interception. Looking back at his play, it's not unreasonable to expect even bigger things from him in 2012.

    The 2010 second-rounder is a lock at middle linebacker, but Dane Fletcher and Mike Rivera aren't in the same boat.

    Dane Fletcher has been a complementary piece at linebacker since he debuted in 2010. At age 25, his peak has not been reached. In 10 games last season, the Montana State Bobcat made 32 tackles and forced a fumble. A former undrafted free agent, Fletcher looked like a lock to make the 53-man roster before he reportedly tore his ACL in the first preseason game against the New Orleans Saints, per NFL.com's Ian Rapoport.

    Now the door has been opened for Mike Rivera, a 2009 undrafted free agent. Unlike Fletcher, he's been a journeyman in the NFL. Since he entered the league in 2009, Rivera has been a member of five different franchises. Although he's been a practice squad player, never playing a down in a regular-season game. He has no more practice squad eligibility and will have to make the final roster.

    Barring a fantastic preseason from Rivera, someone like Tracy White, Jeff Tarpinian or Niko Koutouvides could steal the last linebacker spot and merge to the interior.

    If there was a wild card here, it's rookie Dont'a Hightower. Hightower's 6'4", 265-pound frame makes him a thumper, but moves much faster than his size. He played all over the defensive front during his time at the University of Alabama, and could see some reps on the inside.

Cornerbacks

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    CBs on roster: Devin McCourty, Ras-I Dowling, Kyle Arrington, Sterling Moore, Alfonzo Dennard, Marquice Cole

    Projected starters: Devin McCourty, Ras-I Dowling

    Offseason additions: According to Patriots.com, Ross Ventrone agreed to a future contract in February. The Patriots signed Will Allen on March 17, per Patriots.com. Two days later, the club agreed to a deal with Marquice Cole, via Patriots.com. And according to a tweet from the Boston Globe's Shalise Manza Young, seventh-round pick Alfonzo Dennard signed a contract on May 17. This August, the team also announced that Derrick Martin has been acquired.

    Roster cuts: Ross Ventrone has been released, per WEEI's Christopher Price. Price also tweeted that the team has cut Derrick Martin.

    Projected final roster: Devin McCourty, Ras-I Dowling, Kyle Arrington, Sterling Moore, Alfonzo Dennard

     

    Last season, the Patriots' secondary allowed 293.9 yards per game—the second-most passing yards in the NFL, courtesy of NFL.com. Now in training camp, the cornerbacks are refining their game and the sieve-like pass coverage.

    Devin McCourty and Ras-I Dowling should get the starting nods in 2012. However, McCourty is coming off a subpar sophomore season and Dowling is returning from a hip injury that cut his rookie year short after notching two starts.

    Below them is Kyle Arrington, who intercepted seven passes in 2011. The 25-year-old could be an effective nickelback for New England heading into the next campaign. Yet, like McCourty, he got beat too often a season ago and will have to keep making plays.

    Battling with Arrington is Sterling Moore. Moore went undrafted last year, but has found his groove with the Patriots. And according to Greg A. Bedard of the Boston Globe, he's disrupting plays in camp:

    Another strong pass breakup from CB Sterling Moore, who appears to lead cornerbacks in that category by a wide margin in this camp. Moore’s ball skills were apparent last season, and if he keeps it up, it may be tough to keep him on the sidelines. But neither Ras-I Dowling nor Devin McCourty has ceded a lot of room yet.

    The Patriots also had a veteran in Will Allen, although the 33-year-old now resides on injured reserve.

    If high-potential rookie Alfonzo Dennard can get on the field, he could bring a tough, physical mentality to the nickel or dime packages. However, he's hobbled by an injury, as ESPNBoston.com's Field Yates reported on July 27:

    Rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was treated by members of the Patriots training staff after suffering what appeared to be a right hamstring injury. He did not return to action and spent the latter portion of practice with an ice wrap. 

    On the edge of the roster is Marquice Cole. Playing primarily special teams during his time in the NFL, Cole is not a shoo-in, but he isn't a scrub either.

    All in all, the Pats' cornerback position is looking up.

Safeties

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    Safeties on roster: Patrick Chung, Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner

    Projected starters: Patrick Chung, Steve Gregory

    Offseason additions: Steve Gregory signed with New England in March. The Pats signed second-round pick Tavon Wilson in May. The signing of sixth-round pick Nate Ebner followed suit, per WEEI.com's Christopher Price. And in June, James Ihedigbo was re-signed.

    Roster cuts: James Ihedigbo has been cut, per a tweet from WEEI's Christopher Price. Sergio Brown has been released, according to a tweet from the Boston Globe's Greg A. Bedard. Malcolm Williams has been released, per Patriots.com.

    Projected final roster: Patrick Chung, Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner

     

    The Patriots' unofficial depth chart slots Patrick Chung and ex-San Diego Charger Steve Gregory as the starting safeties. And it's hard to argue with that as both men have been starters in previous years.

    Deeper down in the ranks are rookies Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner, two relatively unknowns with different specialties.

    Illinois' Wilson is a true defensive back, and can play practically anywhere in the secondary and on special teams. According to the Boston Globe's Amalie Benjamin, Wilson has been playing all over the place in training camp and turning some heads in the process, including Bill Belichick's:

    "I think he’s been on a steady course since he got here," Belichick said. "Tavon works hard. He’s very attentive, he asks good questions, he really pays attention and he’s a hard working kid, both on and off the field."

    On the opposite end is Ohio State's Ebner. ESPNBoston.com's Mike Rodak explained what's holding the special teams ace back in camp:

    After missing rookie minicamp with an injury, Ebner returned for OTAs and appeared set to make progress as training camp began. But he has yet to practice this July, with an undisclosed injury keeping him out of the first four days of training camp.

Kicking Specialists

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    Kicking specialists on roster: Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko, Danny Aiken

    Projected starters: Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko, Danny Aiken

    Offseason additions: The Patriots signed kicker Chris Koepplin in April, via Patriots.com.

    Roster cuts: Chris Koepplin was released on August 21, according to ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss.

    Projected final roster: Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko, Danny Aiken

     

    New England's kicking unit has been nothing short of spectacular.

    Placekicker Stephen Gostkowski has converted upon 84.4 percent of field goal tries since he was drafted by the Patriots back in 2006. Gostkowski was an All-Pro in 2008 and has shown no signs of slowing down.

    Punter Zoltan Mesko has booted for a 44.8-yard average distance since New England selected him in the 2010 draft. And his 46.5-yard punting average in 2011 placed him at No. 10 in the NFL, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com.

    Long snapper Danny Aiken has been quiet since he joined the Patriots last season. Yet if a long snapper isn't making news, that's because he isn't making mistakes.

    There was one backup specialist in training camp: placekicker Chris Koepplin. He's a solid kicker, but his job spelling Stephen Gostkowski has ended. No stunner here.

Return Specialists

23 of 23

    Returners on roster: Julian Edelman, Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley

    Projected starters: Jeff Demps, Julian Edelman, Shane Vereen

    Offseason additions: Donte' Stallworth signed with the Patriots in March, per Patriots.com. New England agreed to terms with Jeff Demps, per ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss and Mike Rodak. 

    Roster cuts: Donte' Stallworth was cut, per Mike Cole of NESN.com.

    Projected final roster: Julian Edelman, Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley

     

    Much to the chagrin of the Patriots faithful, speedy kick returners Brandon Tate and Bethel Johnson are not walking through that door.

    In 2011, the Patriots ranked 28th in kick return average and 16th in punt return average, according to NFL.com. While the average per punt return isn't shabby, the kick return efficiency could use some work.

    Due to this, the team is testing out some new return men in training camp, reports Howard Ulman of the Associated Press (h/t Boston.com).

    According to Ulman, running backs Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen have thrown their hat in the ring.

    Ridley had his hand in several kick returns as a rookie in 2011, his longest was 32 yards. Meanwhile, the shifty Vereen has never returned a kick in the NFL.

    Last year's returners, wide receiver Julian Edelman and running back Danny Woodhead are still in contention. But the coaching staff is doing their due diligence trying to put the most elusive men on the field. After all, field position is what sets up scoring drives.

    Edelman has been returning kicks for the Pats since 2009 and has mustered up two punt-return scores. While Woodhead saw his first full-time return duty last season, but he averaged a pedestrian 21.9 yards per kick return.

    Newcomer Jeff Demps looked dangerous towards the end of the preseason. But sadly, his injury will keep him out for the rest of the season.

    At this time, Edelman has provided enough to keep the punt return privileges. Although, Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen could also be factors on kick returns.

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