Now that the New England Patriots are halfway through the preseason, roster cuts are rapidly approaching. Clubs have to be down to seventy-five players by September 1st. Throughout training camp practices and the two preseason games the team has played, players who were unknown have made a name for themselves.
On the other hand, some players have struggled to even get on the field and make their case for the Patriots roster. Before training camp began I projected what I thought would be the Patriots 53 man roster at the time. Now that we have more intel as to what players are making names for themselves, here is my second roster projection.
Quarterbacks: Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo.
As the whole Tom Brady versus the National Football League court proceeding continue, it seems more and more likely that Tom Brady will do anything to avoid a suspension. Also, the league and Roger Goodell are making themselves look stupider by the second. Therefore, I believe that Tom Brady will be out there week one against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The team and coaching staff are also taking that approach as well, as Brady continues to take the majority of first team reps.
Jimmy Garoppolo has been decent so far this preseason. Particularly against the Saints this past Saturday when he went 28 for 33. Ryan Lindley has yet to see any time in the preseason, which leads me to think that the coaching staff is not comfortable with his progression after two weeks. I can’t see him making the final roster, unless Brady were to be suspended.
Running Back: Brandon Bolden, Jonas Gray, Dion Lewis, James White.
With LeGarrette Blount suspended for the Patriots week one match up against the Steelers, the team is a bit strapped for opening night at running back. Thus far in the preseason, James White who had question marks going in has risen to the occasion and has taken hold of the third down back role. In addition, fourth year veteran free agent Dion Lewis has also sparked at times. At 5-8, 195 pounds Lewis has flashed some Danny Woodhead like ability this summer. Travaris Cadet has been fighting a hamstring injury and has barely been on the field. He may be a surprise cut at the start of September.
Wide Receiver: Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Julian Edelman, Chris Harper, Brandon LaFell, Reggie Wayne.
Probably more than any other the position, the injury bug has hit the Patriots wide receiver group hard this summer. Brandon LaFell has yet to come off the physically unable to perform list. However, some are hinting towards a return to action very soon for LaFell. Also, Brandon Gibson is now on injured reserve with a torn ACL that he suffered in Saturday’s preseason game against the Saints.
Furthermore, Brian Tyms is more than likely heading to injured reserve after he suffered a leg injury last week. Injuries such as these open up chances for a player such as Chris Harper. He has really stuck out in the preseason games proving to be Jimmy Garoppolo’s favorite target. Harper is the perfect example of an undrafted rookie taking advantage of the chances he has been given.
Reggie Wayne’s veteran leadership and savy should be a good contribution to the Patriots, no matter how productive he is on the gridiron.
Tight End: Scott Chandler, James Develin, Rob Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanwanui.
No real surprises here. The tight ends that the Patriots had brought in through free agency and the draft have yet to show anything spectacular in a Patriots uniform. Fred Davis never even made it to training camp, and AJ Derby was put on injured reserve the first week of training camp. Also, Scott Chandler has been on the sidelines with an injury for the majority of camp. A player like Hoo-Man now can breathe easily because it seems as if he job is now safe. However, the team knows what they have with All-Pro Rob Gronkowski and he can easily carry the whole group.
Offensive Tackle: Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming.
No real shockers here either. The Patriots should have two Pro-Bowl caliber tackles that keep Tom Brady upright with Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer. Marcus Cannon has had a tough go of it at guard, but is a serviceable reserve tackle. Cameron Fleming was good last year as the, “tight end eligible” in jumbo sets. Due to his contract, some people have speculated towards a possible end of training camp trade, much like that of Logan Mankins last year.
Guard: Ryan Wendell, Tre Jackson, Shaq Mason, Josh Kline.
There is a lot of question marks at the guard position for the Patriots heading into the regular season. Some of those questions have been addressed thus far in training camp. The two rookies that were selected in the fourth round of the draft with Tre Jackson and Shaq Mason have impressed at times. Jackson in particular has shown burst and power in his run blocker ability. Mason struggled at times taking on Saints defensive tackles last week. The Patriots hardly had any success running the ball. Josh Kline has always been a sporadic player, therefore I don’t feel comfortable putting all my chips in with him. It is safe to say, the Patriots need Ryan Wendell to come off PUP as soon as possible.
Center: Bryan Stork.
Last season, the Patriots did not carry a true back up center. During training camp this season, David Andrews has taken the majority of reps with Bryan Stork recovering from injury. Also, Josh Kline has taken reps at center on multiple occasions, and when Ryan Wendell comes back he can provide some decent relief for Stork. Andrews has been okay for an udrafted rookie. He comes from a very competitive program at Georgia, and I can see a practice squad placement for him.
Defensive End: Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Trey Flowers, Geneo Grissom.
The defensive end position is what many fans have expected throughout training camp. The veterans have stepped up as always, with Jabaal Sheard looking as good as advertised. In addition, the rookies in Flowers and Grissom have shown their athleticism, and Flowers in particular seems promising.
Defensive Tackle: Malcom Brown, Sealver Siliga, Dominique Easley, Antonio Johnson, Chris Jones.
One surprise thus far during training camp has been veteran Antonio Johnson. The eight-year NFL veteran has received a great amount of first team reps so far. I’m not sure if its because he is impressing the coaching staff, or if Bill Belichick is trying to make Dominique Easley prove himself. It is more than likely a mixture of both. Nevertheless, Johnson’s veteran presence and the mixture of young talent should be decent. The interior of the defensive line does need to have more production because they have not impressed so far.
Linebacker: Jerod Mayo, Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Dane Fletcher, Jonathan Freeny.
Again no surprises here. When fully healthy, the Patriots should have one of the best linebacking corps in the National Football League. Jamie Collins flashed in week one of the preseason, but was very sub par in week two having one of the worst games he has ever played. Jonathan Freeny’s veteran leadership has been a good addition, and he has shown the ability to be a signal caller on the defensive side of the ball.
Cornerback: Malcolm Butler, Robert McClain, Tarell Brown, Bradley Fletcher, Logan Ryan.
By far, cornerback had the most question marks out of any position heading into training camp. Now that we are halfway through camp, the only question that has been answered is whether or not Malcolm Butler is legit, and as we have found out it seems as though he is. Also, Tarell Brown has taken hold of the number two cornerback position, and Logan Ryan has been as advertised, terrible. Even with all the chances to be a starter, Ryan still can’t impress. He is too slow for nickel back and can’t cover big outside receivers.
Safety: Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Patrick Chung, Jordan Richards, Nate Ebner.
As all Patriots fans found out on Saturday Devin McCourty needs to be playing safety, not corner. Not only can they not have him at corner, that can’t survive without him in the back end. Duron Harmon and other safeties would be lost without him. Jordan Richards has been a nice bright spot so far this summer. He has flashed in practices proving the doubters wrong the questioned Bill Belichick’s decision to draft him. His emergence will eventually lead to Tavon Wilson being shown the door.
Special Teams: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Matthew Slater.
The four full-time special teams players for the Patriots are these four that I have just named. With the exception of Cardona who is a rookie, all the players are among the best in the league at what they do. All three have recently received brand new contracts, and they are well deserved. They are the key reasons why the Patriots should be in the tops of the league in special teams.