7 Patriots Who Will Be on the Roster Bubble in 2014
With the glut of injuries that have hit the New England Patriots in 2014, there are going to be some contributors to this playoff team that end up on the roster bubble this offseason.
Here are seven players that could be replaced come opening day of the 2014 season.
Note: Players were chosen based on their performance—or lack thereof—this year as well as potential roster competition next year.
Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell were the two weakest links on the Patriots offensive line. While adequate in executing their assingments on run plays, they both struggled in pass protection. Wendell was the lowest-rated pass-blocking center in the NFL.
Far too often, they allowed stunters inside to get a free run at Tom Brady. Combined, Wendell and Connolly gave up 79 total quarterback pressures (including sacks, hits and hurries) on the year.
Competition should be expected for at least one of the two linemen. Xavier Su'a-Filo (OL, UCLA) and Weston Richburg (C, Colorado State) are two possible replacements in the 2014 draft. Cleveland Browns lineman Alex Mack could also be on the radar.
Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner
Tavon Wilson was on the field for 19 defensive snaps during his sophomore season, while Nate Ebner logged just five. For second- and sixth-round picks in 2012 respectively, a lot more was expected.
Both Ebner and Wilson have been solid contributors on special teams, but that alone won't be able to secure them a roster spot.
Duron Harmon, Steve Gregory and Devin McCourty seem to have their roster spots locked up. Bill Belichick will certainly have a couple of surprises in the 2014 draft—he is good at that—to give Ebner and Wilson some competition.
To continue a trend, third-round selection Jake Bequette has only been on the field for 14 snaps this season. Michael Buchanan—a seventh-round selection in 2013—and Andre Carter—signed off the street during the season—have both been given chances ahead of Bequette.
With the former Arkansas Razorback only seeing snaps in five games during his first two years in New England, it is safe to say that the Patriots coaching staff isn't exactly enamored with his play.
Expect Bill Belichick and his personnel staff to be active in the rush end free-agent market this offseason. Jason Worilds—currently with the Pittsburgh Steelers—could be one name to watch.
If the Patriots target a defensive end in on Day 2 or Day 3 of the draft, Scott Crichton (DE, Oregon State) and Ben Gardner (DE, Stanford) are two names to watch.
Defensive tackle is one position where most fans and media alike agree needs some attention this offseason. However, before injuries beset the front four, it was actually considered a strength.
Chris Jones—pass rush—and Sealver Siliga—stopping the run—each have defined their roles this season. With Wilfork, Kelly and possibly Armond Armstead returning to the team in 2014, Joe Vellano might be the odd man out.
Vellano eats up space and works as hard as anyone on the field. That said, he just doesn't have a trait that helps him stand out. He isn't a great run-stuffer, but is occasionally successful putting pressure on the quarterback.
If the Patriots want to add some competition through the draft, Ryan Carrethers (DL, Arkansas State) is a mid-round prospect that should fit New England's defensive scheme.
When the Patriots selected Beauharnais in the seventh round of the 2013 NFL draft, one had to wonder where he fit on a team with Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower, Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher and Jamie Collins.
Although Mayo and Spikes aren't able to play in Saturday's playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts, the same question remains. What is Beauharnais' role on this team?
He logged only one snap on defense during his rookie season—that could change on Saturday—and wasn't able to get on the field and distinguish himself on special teams.
The Patriots will surely bring in some competition for special teams and coverage linebackers via the 2014 NFL draft or undrafted college free agents. Christian Kirksey (LB, Iowa) and Boseko Lokombo (LB, Oregon) both fit the bill.