Power Ranking Entire New England Patriots Roster After Week 8
Happy Halloween! The New England Patriots are midway through their schedule, and as we take stock on Allhallows Eve, they’ve provided fans with six wins’ worth of tricks, treats and a few scares along the way. What better way to get into the Halloween spirit than with a special edition of Patriots power rankings?
It’s time to revisit my preseason power rankings of the entire New England roster for the midseason update. The Patriots as a team seem a natural fit for a Halloween theme, as they’ve stumbled inexorably forward like zombies. They sustain one injury after another but continue undaunted in relentless pursuit of the postseason.
No matter how many times fans, media and gleeful haters declare them dead, the Patriots rise up yet again with the signature cold determination of the undead.
Players are ranked from worst to best, based on contributions thus far and expected contributions moving forward. Only players currently on the 53-man roster are included. Consequently, Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Sebastian Vollmer are absent after landing on injured reserve.
No. 53-No. 49
These players are like spooky Halloween ghosts that can’t be seen and their presence can’t be felt. They lurk silently on the sidelines until summoned into action. Despite the occasional sighting, they’re almost never captured on film. Like the very existence of ghosts, these players’ ability to contribute remains very much in doubt.
53: Chris White
52: Chris Barker
51: Nate Ebner
50: Steve Beauharnais
49: Jake Bequette
No. 48-No. 39
If you’re feeling adventurous enough to wander through a cemetery on Halloween, you know there are people resting beneath the ground; you just don’t see them because they’re buried. The same holds true for this group, who remain buried on the Patriots depth chart.
48: Marcus Forston
47: Matthew Mulligan
46: James Develin
45: Tavon Wilson
44: Ryan Mallett
43: Leon Washington
42: Josh Boyce
41: Danny Aiken
40: Will Svitek
39: Joe Vellano
Vellano’s been getting more reps since Wilfork went down, but following Tuesday’s trade for nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga, he could be looking at a smaller role going forward.
No. 38-No. 34
38: Austin Collie
37: Isaac Sopoaga
36: Dane Fletcher
35: Marquice Cole
34: Jamie Collins
Rookie linebacker Jamie Collins has seen more usage in recent weeks but hasn’t stood out on film other than a costly illegal blocking penalty against the New York Jets in Week 7.
Cole would normally rank even lower since he’s been cut and re-signed ad nauseam. However, he gets a boost on the heels of last week’s spectacular tip-drill interception.
No. 33-No. 29
33: Duron Harmon
32: Michael Buchanan
31: Andre Carter
30: Brandon Bolden
29: Michael Hoomanawanui
Rookies Harmon and Buchanan haven’t played a whole lot but flash playmaking ability during their short spurts on the field.
Bolden’s been very involved to this point, but Shane Vereen’s impending return could relegate him to strictly backup duties.
No. 28-No. 24
28: LeGarrette Blount
27: Ryan Allen
26: Matthew Slater
25: Logan Ryan
24: Marcus Cannon
Cannon will be counted on for major production following Sebastian Vollmer’s season-ending broken leg. His continued development will be key as he attempts to replace New England’s best offensive lineman.
Punter Ryan Allen earned this spot by beating Zoltan Mesko for the job. So far, he’s pinned the opposition inside its own 20-yard line 16 times on the season. His stellar punting has given the Patriots much-needed field position in a number of hard-fought games.
No. 23-No. 19
23: Chris Jones
22: Stephen Gostkowski
21: Kyle Arrington
20: Dan Connolly
19: Steve Gregory
Gostkowski has only missed one field goal all season, bringing reliable scoring to a team notably lacking in that area.
Jones has been a pleasant surprise, racking up five sacks in just five games. He has major holes in his game but consistently flashes on film and shows a true knack for generating upfield pressure in the passing and running games.
No. 18-No. 14
18: Tommy Kelly
17: Kenbrell Thompkins
16: Ryan Wendell
15: Aaron Dobson
14: Nate Solder
Thompkins has been the best of the rookie receivers so far with 334 yards and four touchdowns. Dobson seems to develop better chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady each week, though, and should be the better of the two going forward.
No. 13-No. 11
13: Julian Edelman
12: Alfonzo Dennard
11: Stevan Ridley
Edelman’s been a real saving grace on offense. He’s also been a game-changing punt returner. His role in the offense will gradually decline as Danny Amendola gets healthy and Aaron Dobson continues to emerge, but Edelman will still make an impact, and he remains unchallenged in the return game.
No. 10: Brandon Spikes
Brandon Spikes has cemented himself as one of the premier run-stuffers in the NFL. His role has grown since Mayo’s injury, and he’s now locked into the starting lineup. The emotional leader of New England’s defense, Spikes brings violence and ferocity to each play.
He’s still vulnerable in coverage and occasionally overcommits in the running game, but he stands out every time the game film comes on. He’s a real difference-maker for an injury-ravaged defense.
No. 9: Danny Amendola
I have reservations about ranking Amendola this high since he’s been a complete non-factor since getting hurt in Week 1. Still, he should be more involved as he inches back to full health.
The Patriots didn’t sign him so he could battle Julian Edelman for targets. He should be the unquestioned top wide receiver going forward.
No. 8: Rob Ninkovich
Rob Ninkovich doesn’t really stand out on most plays. He seems to just lurk and wait for the action to come to him. Watching him on film, it’s clear to see this is by design.
He plays a lot of contain on the edge, and the Patriots frequently use him to force action back into the rest of the line. For his part, Ninkovich plays his role beautifully, is almost never out of position and somehow finds himself around the football in key situations.
He’s an underrated cornerstone of Bill Belichick’s defense.
No. 7: Logan Mankins
Logan Mankins has looked foolish a few times this season, but he’s still the best of an underperforming offensive line. He still has the physical tools to dominate a game, he just isn’t playing as consistently as in years past.
Communication issues have plagued the O-line this year. Mankins isn’t getting beat often, but he and center Ryan Wendell seem confused about assignments at times, leading to protection breakdowns and easy pressure on Brady.
No. 6A: Shane Vereen
Vereen gets a special place in the ranks because he’s technically not on the 53-man roster, but he will be when he returns from short-term IR.
Eligible to return in Week 11, Vereen looked primed to seize the lead role in New England’s backfield before breaking his wrist in Week 1. He is the fastest, quickest and most explosive runner on the roster. He’s also the best pass-catcher out of the backfield.
When all’s said and done, he’s the Patriots’ best running back and should be used accordingly once he returns to action.
No. 6: Dont’a Hightower
Dont’a Hightower finds himself leading the linebacking corps with Jerod Mayo out for the season. He showed plenty of promise as a rookie in 2012 and has taken another step forward this year.
Hightower’s been burned in coverage a few times but has held his own for the most part. He’s looked great on film and is quickly developing into an outstanding NFL linebacker. Much of New England’s success on defense the rest of the way will depend on how well Hightower adjusts to his new responsibilities in Mayo’s absence.
No. 5: Devin McCourty
Devin McCourty’s enjoying his best season since he made the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Now playing safety, he’s been the leader of the secondary, running the show from deep in the zone.
Perhaps the surest tackle on the team, McCourty has been nearly impregnable deep downfield and across the middle. He’s been making plays all over the field, most notably last week when he teamed with Marquice Cole for one of the most spectacular interceptions of the season.
McCourty’s awareness, coverage skills, closing speed and sure tackling have him on the short list for the Pro Bowl.
No. 4: Rob Gronkowski
Expect Rob Gronkowski to rank much higher once the season wraps up. As things stand right now, he’s only played in two games. He was his typical imposing self in a loss to the Jets, then was mysteriously quiet in a win over the Miami Dolphins.
When healthy, Gronkowski is unguardable.
As the season wears on, look for Brady to funnel the offense through him. "Gronk" is perfect for a Halloween column too, since he’s endured enough surgeries to make Dr. Frankenstein proud.
Look for Gronk to get rolling in a major way down the stretch. He should once again challenge for All-Pro honors despite missing six games.
Most fans point to Gronkowski’s injuries as the main reason the Patriots fell short in recent playoffs. Hopefully by using caution, the Patriots can keep him fresh and healthy this time around.
No. 3: Chandler Jones
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Like the candy snatcher lurking in the bushes on Halloween, Chandler Jones has been snatching sacks all season.
Leading the team with 6.5 sacks through eight games, Jones is on pace for 13 quarterback takedowns. He and Ninkovich work wonderfully in tandem, with Jones collapsing the left side of the offensive line and Ninkovich holding the right edge to force action back into Jones’ tenacious rush.
He’s made a huge leap from his rookie year to now and appears poised to join the likes of J.J. Watt, Cameron Wake, DeMarcus Ware and Mario Williams as sack masters who made the jump in year two.
Jones doesn’t play the run as well, but the Patriots really don’t ask him to do much other than get the quarterback. He’s right at home in his role and should continue to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks all season.
No. 2: Aqib Talib
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In the midst of an All-Pro-caliber season, Aqib Talib is like one of those oversized pillowcases that gets stuffed with candy once a year—he’s been responsible for containing all sorts of goodies.
He’s drawn some of the toughest coverage matchups possible and kept all of them from bursting out. He was the primary defender on Jimmy Graham and held him without a catch. He limited Vincent Jackson to 34 yards. He held Julio Jones to the least impactful 108 yards you may ever see. He allowed a paltry 61 yards to A.J. Green.
Opposing teams are throwing their tastiest talents at Talib, and like and overstuffed candy bag, he’s kept those talents from spilling all over the Patriots secondary.
No. 1: Tom Brady
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Sticking with the Halloween theme, Brady is New England’s Grim Reaper.
Brady hasn’t played up to his standards this season, but he’s still the spoon that stirs the cauldron. Nothing says Halloween like a sweet Grim Reaper costume, and nothing says Patriots football like Brady.
Granted, the future Hall of Famer hasn’t played up to his standards this season, but he’s still the face of the franchise, just as the reaper is the face of death.
Even in a down year statistically, Brady’s still shown the cold-blooded ability to kill the opposition’s hopes and harvest wins. He’s been an unshakable leader in a sea of turmoil, and the Patriots have reaped the benefits to the tune of six victories.