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Projecting Patriots Final 53 Man Roster
Quarterback (3)- Tom Brady, Ryan Mallet, Jimmy Garoppolo
It's been a while since the Patriots carried 3 quarterbacks on the roster. But with an aging Brady and a rookie quarterback, it seems like they need their go to back up man. First thing is that Tom Brady is Tom Brady, and he's not going anywhere anytime soon. Obviously he is going to make the roster and look to retain his starting spot in his 15th season. I was hesitant to put Mallet on this list simply because he has not proven himself in his three years on the team. Even in last night's preseason game he looks like back when he was a rookie. A timid player. Standing at 6'6" with a Howitzer for an arm you would think he would be in line to become the next big thing at quarterback. Some even argued he was the best quarterback in the draft aside from Cam Newton in 2011. Yet he simply has not lived up to that hype. He looks scared out on the field, is inconsistent with his throwing, and does not even look to utilize his arm strength down field. Instead he opts for short check-down throws. If Garopollo can flash more brilliance I'm looking for Mallet to be cut in his final year with the Patriots. The only reason I leave him on this list is because the rookie Jimmy is so unproven. Speaking of him though my first impression is WOW. After a terrible training camp I was impressed with the way he made quick decisions and wasn't afraid to throw the ball deep resulting in a touchdown to the receiver Tyms. He certainly did not look like a rookie, rather, the 4th year player Mallet was supposed to be. I'm definitely excited to continue to watch this player and see what he does in the future, possibly as the starter for the New England Patriots someday.
Runningback (4)- Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, James White, James Develin
While he certainly has had his fumbling issues, look for Stevan Ridley to return as the leading rusher for the Patriots. His blend of size, speed, and burst should carry him through the season and fumbling issues aside, he should rebound from a poor year. Shane Vereen will be a chance-of-pace back whose speed and ability to catch the ball will allow him to gather yard on stretch plays and screens. His injury history, however, will most likely keep him limited to less touches than Ridley. Look for him to be more of a receiver than a runner this year. Rookie James White out of Wisconsin will certainly get a spot as a backup to both Ridley and Vereen. His ability to run between the tackles AND catch passes gives him the potential to become a three-down back and the starter next year. A Ridley-Vereen hybrid with a lot of burst, expect him to receive touches should either of the two aforementioned backs begin to falter. Finally there's James Develin. This spot would go to power-back Tyler Gaffney had he not been IR'd for the year. Instead I went with the full-back Develin who will steal the final running back roster spot from Brandon Bolden. Bolden's inconsistency along with his previous suspension for violating the league's PED rules will get him cut from the team. Develin's blocking and ability to play tight-end will allow him to stay on the roster.
Wide Receiver (7)- Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Brandon LaFell, Kenbrell Thompkins, Josh Boyce, Matthew Slater
This ones a bit tricky. While holding seven receivers is a bit much it might be necessary in this case. Julian Edelman is Brady's favorite target and the number 1 option for the team. Amendola didn't live up to his hype and wasn't able to break away from the injury-prone label. However, his contract is too big to simply cut him and the talent isn't there to trade him. For now the Pats have to give him a second chance, for the money. He will fill the role of the starting slot receiver. Aaron Dobson had a bit of the injury bug too but flashed too much potential to be cut. Besides, he was a second round pick last year and it is too early to give up on their investment. I look for him to have a solid sophomore year. Brandon LaFell was brought in to add competition to the outside receiver spot. He had a solid year with Cam Newton at quarterback, look for him to do the same for New England as he backs up Dobson and Edelman. I don't see the Pats cutting him due to the money they gave him as well as the veteran presence he brings. Kenbrell Thompkins, like Dobson has had his ups and downs but also flashed enough potential that he should stick around. An undrafted rookie out of Cincianatti, he has excellent hands and leaping ability. Who can forget his game winning touchdown last year against the Saints? Phenomenal. The would-be final roster spot is the toughest. Traditionally only six receivers are kept and as much as I would like to keep it that way it seems impossible. Josh Boyce, though injured for almost the entire year last year, was a third round pick and ran a 4.34... on a broken toe. His big-play ability is something that Pats. On a screen Boyce could be lethal and the fact that it is only his second year means they simply cannot cut him yet. Then there's Matthew Slater. I wanted to cut the player that has only one reception in his entire NFL career, except he is a Pro-Bowl special teams player and a team captain. While I don't think he is needed, I think the Pats ultimately remain loyal. Like Mallet, it will be interesting to see what becomes of him.
Tight-End (3)- Rob Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanawanui, D.J. Williams
Nothing new here. When healthy Gronk is one of the greatest to ever play the position. Look for him to bounce back from a couple injury-plagued seasons and finish with 10+ touchdowns. The Hoo-man provides a solid back up who can make some plays in the passing game. His ability to play both tight-end and fullback gives him a boost here. Both he and D.J. Williams will have limited roles. The latter of which is solely for backup purposes and will probably go over ten catches. I wouldn't surprised if Williams was cut in favor of another team's cast-off at tight-end.
Offensive Line (9)- Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, Josh Kline, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming, Jon Halapio, Bryan Stork
Oh the offensive line, however changing. The Pats will return four of their five starter in Solder (LT), Mankins (LG), Vollmer (RT), and Connolly who will be switched back to center after a season at right guard. The emerging play of Josh Kline makes an interesting competition at right guard. In the end I expect the massive Marcus Cannon to take it after being played out of position at tackle the past few years. The three rookie linemen are safe as they were just recently picked up and there are high hopes for all of them to become starters someday. With Connolly back at center it leaves no place for former starter Ryan Wendell. With the savings available from cutting Wendell look for him to not take a Pats uniform this season.
Defensive End (5)- Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Michael Buchanan, Will Smith, Zach Moore
Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich combined for 19.5 sacks in 2013. However, they will receive more help this year with the emergence of youngsters and the aid of veterans. Michael Buchanan showed flashes of brilliance last year and that has carried into this preseason. The sophomore will have an expanded role and should put up multiple sacks. Will Smith was a starter for the Saints until he tore his ACL. While no longer a starter, he should be able to contribute in a backup role with a few sacks. The final spot came between veteran Jake Bequette and rookie Zach Moore. While Bequette has been having a good training camp, ultimately I gave it to Moore. Bequette has only played a handful of snaps in his career and shown nothing to garner a roster spot. Moore, while a rookie has similar measurables to Jadeveon Clowney and while he isn't on Clowney's level he has the potential to be a devastating edge-rusher.
Defensive Tackle (5)- Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Sealver Siliga, Dominique Easley, Chris Jones
The depth at defensive tackle is more important than ever. With both starters Wilfork and Kelly coming off major leg injuries, as well as being on the wrong side of 30, the Pats needs to limit their play. This can only be done through the prominence of other players at defensive tackle. Wilfork is a gap-destroyer who can clog lanes and commands a double team due to his massive frame. This allows pass rushers like Chandler Jones to go one-on-one in blocking and fly off the edge. Tommy Kelly, while old, provides a nice pass-rushing presence up the middle which is something the Pats have been sorely missing in recent years. Siliga comes in a Wilfork-type frame with a massive body to clog the rushing lanes. He will be the main back-up for Wilfork to duplicate his run-stuffing. Siliga uses his strength to collapse the pocket which (like Wilfork) opens the lanes for edge-rushers. Easley was a first-round pick and is expected to provide a pass-rush up the middle like Kelly. His strength and speed are his biggest assets. Coming off of two ACL tears though will make the Pats cautious with how they use him. Finally there's Jones. An undrafted rookie last year, he lead all rookie defensive tackles with six sacks. That's prime production for the cost of under a million dollars. He will be used in a 3rd down specialist role as he looks to add to his sack numbers.
Linebackers (5)- Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Steve Beauharnias, James Anderson
Linebacker will see a shift in pieces, though the same returning cast. Jerod Mayo will return to his natural position of middle linebacker while Dont'a Hightower sees more of a push-rushing roll on the strong side. Weak side linebacker will be manned by rookie stand out Jamie Collins. The freak athlete will do everything from rushing the passer to covering tight ends across the middle. James Anderson had over 100 tackles for the Bears last year and will provide much needed depth as a great coverage linebacker that can stop the run. Finally, Beauharnias will be a backup middle linebacker for Mayo. Entering his sophomore year he struggled last year but still has the potential to become a solid backup for the Pats this season.
Secondary (9)- Darelle Revis, Brandon Browne, Logan Ryan, Dennard, Kyle Arrington, Devin McCourty, Jamea Thomas, Duron Harmon, Patrick Chung
The cornerback's are headlined by All-Pro corner Revis. The lockdown coverman will be looked at to shut down the opposing teams best receiver. This is going to be vital as the Patriots play some high-profile passing attacks such as the Bears and Lions this year. Across from him will be the physical Brandon Browner. Despite missing the first four games with suspension for PED's, the corner should slide in nicely alongside Revis. He has the body of a linebacker and has shown the knack for challenging the ball at the highest point. Logan Ryan is a speedster that snagged 5 picks as a rookie (5!). His youth and athleticism should see him compete for the starting slot corner position. Behind them both are the very talented Dennard and Arrington. Dennard had some miscues last year after being a standout his rookie year. With two Pro-Bowlers in front of him on the depth chart it will be a year of proving himself if he wants to start again. Finally, Kyle Arrington, a former starter who had 7 interceptions just a few years ago. His struggles outside have him fighting Ryan for the slot position where he excels. Can he keep his starting job? For the free safety position the Patriots have Devin McCourty who will direct the secondary at free safety for the second straight year. After making the switch last year McCourty became one of the best free safeties in the league. He'll retain that title. Behind him is rookie hard-hitter Jamea Thomas. His potential outdoes incumbent Tavon Wilson whom the Pats took in the second round in the 2012 draft. Sophomore Duron Harmon will be the starting strong safety after a solid rookie year. Behind him will be former Patriot turned Eagle turned Patriot again Patrick Chung. Chung will see a sub role as a run stopper on defense.
Specialists (3)- Ryan Allen, Stephen Gostowski, Danny Aiken
The trio of Ryan Allen at punter, Stephen Gostowski at kicker, and Danny Aiken at long-snapper will be at it again. Gostowski converted over 90% of his field-goals last year after a down year. Ryan Allen had some struggles but overall did a good job and under 25 years old means he's still loaded with potential. Finally, Aiken had a few miscues but remains the best option at long-snapper.