Updated 53-Man Roster Projections for Patriots Post Week 3 of Preseason
Veteran presences like Tommy Kelly, James Anderson and Will Smith have cleaned out their lockers already, but there is a lot of work yet to be done.
Logjams at receiver, running back, linebacker and safety need to be broken. The right mix of special teams players needs to be kept around. Youth and experience need to be balanced. Who can New England sneak onto the practice squad?
Here is a look at how those questions will get answered as I predict the final 53-man roster.
Quarterback (3): Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett, Jimmy Garoppolo
The only question here is whether Ryan Mallett is released or traded prior to the start of the season. Jimmy Garoppolo has shown that he has a bright future in the league, but doubt should remain of his ability to take over the reins in his rookie season should Tom Brady go down with an injury.
If the New England Patriots can move Mallett for a tangible asset—a sixth-round pick should do—from a quarterback-needy team, they may feel just comfortable enough to pounce.
Tailback (3): Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, James White
Fullback (1): James Develin
The running back position may be the toughest spot to handicap on the roster. Ridley, Vereen, White and Develin are roster locks to me, but not everyone agrees. Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com had Ridley of all people getting the axe.
The big question centers around if the Patriots will keep a fifth running back and if so who. Brandon Bolden, Roy Finch and Jonas Gray all have staked their claim, but ultimately, needs at other areas might preclude any of them from making the 53-man roster. If one of them does, it will likely be due to his contributions on special teams. Finch's return skills especially stand out.
I'm sure that Bill Belichick would love to see Finch and Gray make it to the practice squad should they not make the final cut.
Tight End (3): Rob Gronkowski, Tim Wright, Michael Hoomanawanui
Tim Wright's arrival in New England came as a shock to many.
Breaking: the Patriots have agreed to parameters of a trade to send Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins to the Bucs for a pick and TE Tim Wright— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) August 26, 2014
Wright's ability to play the "Move" tight end position—primarily a receiver—will complement the other options in the tight end room.
Hoomanawanui and Gronkowski—when healthy—provide Tom Brady and the Patriots offense exactly what they need. Hoomanawanui brings the steady, reliable play that Brady can count on, while Gronkowski's other-worldly talent tips the scales in favor of the New England offense against any defense in the league.
Fullback James Develin and some backup linemen can take over some blocking duties if need be.
Receiver (6): Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Aaron Dobson, Brandon LaFell, Kenbrell Thompkins, Josh Boyce
When in doubt, keep them all.
Brian Tym's four-game suspension to start the season may be a blessing in disguise. While he has impressed in preseason, Tyms hasn't had the work with Tom Brady that many of the other receivers on the roster have had.
His absence should allow Boyce to make the roster unimpeded. If he or another receiver is not performing up to expectations or gets hurt, Tyms will be there to pick up the slack in Week 5.
As it sits, expect the competition to be fierce after Amendola and Edelman.
Tackles (4): Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming
Guard (3): Dan Connolly, Josh Kline, Jordan Devey
Center (2): Ryan Wendell, Bryan Stork
With veteran presence Logan Mankins headed down to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, per ESPN.com news services, it falls on the likes of Solder, Vollmer, Wendell and Connolly to lead this green bunch into battle.
Solder and Vollmer should anchor the edges, while Connolly, Kline, Devey and perhaps Cannon will fight for snaps inside. It looks like the center job might be Wendell's to lose, but I anticipate Stork making a run at the position once he is healthy.
Jon Halapio—a sixth-round pick this year—could sneak his way onto the team if New England chooses to keep only five receivers. A 10th lineman might be nice with all the youngsters around.
Defensive Tackle (5): Vince Wilfork, Dominique Easley, Chris Jones, Jerel Worthy, Sealver Siliga
Defensive End (4): Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, Zach Moore, Michael Buchanan
The surprising release of Tommy Kelly paved the way for Jerel Worthy—who played well against the Carolina Panthers—to make the 53-man roster. Easley and Wilfork are locks, while Chris Jones and Siliga should make the team barring an aggravation of their bumps and bruises.
Joe Vellano could very well make the team as a sixth tackle or take the place of Worthy.
At end, Moore has impressed me with his power and grace. He definitely doesn't look out of place in the NFL. Buchanan is still raw, but the New England Patriots have to like his upside. If they don't, Jake Bequette could be the surprising inclusion here.
Linebackers (5): Dont'a Hightower, Jerod Mayo, Jamie Collins, Steve Beauharnais, James Morris
With Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich seeing some time at outside linebacker when the New England Patriots go 3-4, Bill Belichick can afford to be a little light in the depth at this position.
The starters—Hightower, Mayo and Collins—are locks for the team, but Beauharnais and Morris are in a competition with Chris White and Ja'Gared Davis for two or three spots on the team. They aren't only being evaluated on their linebacker play; solid special teams performances are necessary to make the team.
My guess is that the defensive upside of Beauharnais and Morris will trump the special teams prowess of White in the end.
Cornerbacks (5): Darrelle Revis, Logan Ryan, Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington, Malcolm Butler
Safeties (5): Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner, Tavon Wilson, Pat Chung
The biggest question with the cornerback group isn't who makes the team; that is relatively easy to parse out. What remains to be seen is who will be released to make room for Brandon Browner when he returns from his four-game suspension. My guess would be Malcolm Butler, who has a better chance of making it to the practice squad in Week 5 than he does before Week 1.
With New England skimping on linebackers, it makes sense to keep Wilson and Chung, who can both play the "Money" linebacker position. They can also help share some of the special teams duties with Ebner.
Specialists (4): Matthew Slater, Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Danny Aiken
No changes from 2013 here. Slater is still one of the best gunners in the league, while Gostkowski is one of the best kickers of all time statistically-speaking. Allen and Aiken have had their ups and down this preseason, but they seem to be working out the kinks.
Look for special teams to again be a point of pride in New England this season.