The Patriots have played two preseason games so far and have had several players stand out in an attempt to earn a spot on the final 53-man roster. Many things can change over the next few weeks and the final two preseason games, but here is my projection for the Patriots week 1 53-man roster.
Quarterback: (2) Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer
No surprised here with only Brady and Hoyer making the roster at quarterback. Etling hasn’t shown near enough to be considered for a spot on the roster, but would expect the Patriots to keep Etling around on the practice squad if no one else claims him.
Runningback: (6) James White, Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel, Jeremy Hill, Brandon Bolden, James Develin
Another position group with no real surprises. At this point the biggest question at the running back position is the health of first round pick Sony Michel, who hasn’t practiced in about two weeks with a knee injury. Jeremy Hill has far outplayed Mike Gillislee in the first two preseason games and looks deserving of a roster spot.
Wide Receiver: (5) Julian Edelman*, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson, Matthew Slater, Eric Decker
This is the weakest wide receiving core the Patriots have had in some time. Outside of Chris Hogan and Matthew Slater, who is used mostly on special teams, there is no real lock for anyone else to make the roster with Edelman suspended for the first four weeks of the season. Dorsett was on the team last year and has gotten reps with the first team during the preseason and would expect to make the team. Patterson has shown some flashes on offense, as well as offers value in special teams as a returner. The last receiver spot will likely come down to Eric Decker or Kenny Britt. Decker has struggled in the preseason and training camp, but I give him the edge over Britt due to the fact that Britt hasn’t been able to get on the field due to injuries. Devin Lucien, Braxton Berrios and Riley McCarron are names to watch for who could make a push for a roster spot during the final two preseason games.
Tight End: (3) Rob Gronkowski, Jacob Hollister, Dwayne Allen
No real surprises here as I believe all three of these players are locks to make the roster. The only way I could see this changing would be if the Patriots want to save money and get rid of Dwayne Allen and his $5 million salary and cap hit.
Offensive Lineman: (8) Trent Brown, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, La’Adrian Waddle, Ted Karras, Ulrick John
The loss of first round pick Isaiah Wynn hurts the depth of the offensive line group, as it was beginning to look like Wynn was going to contribute early for the Patriots. Trent Brown has looked phenomenal so far and looks like he could be an upgrade to Nate Solder, who the Patriots lost in free agency. I believe the first seven guys listed are locks as they were all members of the team last year outside of Brown. Ulrick John has looked decent in limited action so far in the preseason and offers flexibility being able to play at tackle and the interior of the offensive line. Guys like Cole Croston and Luke Bowanko could be in play for the final offensive lineman spot.
Defensive End: (5) Trey Flowers, Adrian Clayborn, Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise Jr., Keionta Davis
Clayborn, Rivers and Wise have all played really well so far in preseason and throughout training camp and are all locks to make the roster, as well as Trey Flowers. Keionta Davis is someone who Belichick seems to like and has spoken very highly of. Davis played a lot in the Patriots second preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles, and did a good job of generating pressure. Davis has the flexibility to play inside and outside and generate pressure from both, and has an opportunity to be a name people wouldn’t expect to make the 53-man roster.
Defensive Tackle: (4) Danny Shelton, Malcolm Brown, Adam Butler, Lawrence Guy
Shelton has looked great so far this summer and looks to be a big contributor to the Patriots defense. Both Shelton and Brown are in the final year of their contracts and look to have big years. Both Butler and Guy played well last year and offer flexibility being able to play all over the defensive line, with Butler being more of a pass rusher and Guy more of a run stopper. Vincent Valentine is currently on the roster bubble and could push someone like Keionta Davis off the roster.
Linebacker: (6) Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Marquis Flowers, Elandon Roberts, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Brandon King
Hightower and Van Noy were obvious locks going into the season and have played well in limited action so far. The name of the preseason Ja’Whaun Bentley also looks like a lock after playing fantastic in the Patriots two preseason games so far, has been all over the field and returned a fumble for a touchdown against the Eagles. Bentley has been getting reps with the first team defense and if he continues to improve and translate his preseason success to the regular season will be a big contributor to the Patriots defense. Flowers and Roberts have been apart of the Patriots defense and expect them to make the team, as well as King who is used on special teams.
Cornerback: (6) Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jason McCourty, Duke Dawson, Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones
The Patriots have a lot of bodies at the cornerback position and could go in many different ways. Jason McCourty was a big name acquisition this offseason but so far his play hasn’t translated to the buzz around him going into camp, and got beat badly on a touchdown last week against the Eagles. I expect him to stick around but am beginning to question the impact and role he could play. I think the real question comes with Jonathan Jones and Cyrus Jones, both who started off on the PUP list . Jonathan Jones played well last year as the teams primary slot corner before being injured, and then the team selected Duke Dawson in the second round of the NFL Draft, who was primarily a slot corner in college and has looked good in training camp so far and has been dealing with a small injury himself. Cyrus Jones was terrible on defense and special teams his rookie year, then missed his second year after tearing his ACL. I think it would be too early to move on from Cyrus after only seeing what he could do for one year really.
Safety: (5) Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner, Eddie Pleasant
McCourty, Chung, and Harmon are all locks and key members of the Patriots defense, as well as Ebner being a lock as a core member of the special teams. Eddie Pleasant has played decently in the first two preseason games, and I just absolutely hate Jordan Richards and will not give him a spot on my projection. So congrats Eddie Pleasant for not being Jordan Richards.
Specialists: (3) Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona
No surprises here as this has been the core the past few years and haven’t seen much out of Corey Bojorquez.