By: Derek Havens
With nearly a month and a half until camp begins and the NFL Draft a thing of the the past, the New England Patriots are now deep into off-season mode. Team workouts, rookie mini-camps and minor roster shuffling will keep the team occupied until training camp begins. Here is an early 53-man roster prediction. —
No need for much of an explanation here. Brady is the face of the franchise and Mallett will be the back-up barring a trade, but that seems highly unlikely at this point.
Running Back: 4
Ridley and Vereen are locks to make the roster. Unless Washington shows up out of shape or decides to hang it up, I see him as making the cut as well. Blount and Bolden will look to battle it out for the final roster spot; I see Blount edging it out in the end.
Full Back: 0
I don’t believe the Patriots start the year with a fullback on the active roster. Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui has shown the ability to play the position and possibly Blount.
Wide Receiver: 6
Dobson, Amendola, Boyce and Edelman will be on New England’s roster. Veteran receivers Michael Jenkins and Donald Jones will be battling for a roster spot in camp, but I see Jones as the one making the final cut. I also include Slater in the position, however, he is really mostly a special teams ace and not a true pass catcher.
Tight End (4)
I don’t rule out Daniel Fells making the 53-man roster as well, but I don’t see him on the team as the season begins. The team is high on Ballard and Hoomanawanui has shown to be a versatile asset for the offense to move around.
While I see Solder and Vollmer as the set starters, both Svitek and Zucsevics have the versatility the Pats covet in lineman.
Mankins is the franchise, stalwart guard and Connolly seems to have locked himself into the starting right guard slot. Cannon has shown promise and versatility in the limited opportunities he has received.
Wendell played the most snaps of any Patriot last season and played admirably during that time. McDonald, now in the system for a full year, should flourish as a back-up lineman.
Defensive Ends: 5
As of now, New England’s roster is surrounded with intriguing possibilities defensively. If this defense will improve for the upcoming NFL season, the front seven will play a large role in their success. The defensive ends currently on the team have a ton of upside, Chandler Jones being the most notable, and improvement getting after opposing quarterbacks will certainly be under the microscope in grading the unit’s performance throughout the year.
Defensive Tackles: 4
The surprising release of Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick seemed to solidify Tommy Kelly and Armond Armstead on the 53-man roster. Marcus Forston is by no means a lock, but he showed slight promise last season and there is a chance he could make the team if he shows up strong in camp.
The line backing core seems to be a strong, versatile group for the Pats defense. On the other hand, Brandon Spikes has been absent thus far in voluntary workouts, Dane Fletcher is coming off an injury, not to mention Jamie Collins and Steve Beauharnais are rookies. While there is uncertainty, there is also promise. The talent and depth for the Patriots offers high upside and optimism for improvement in 2013.
Barring injury, the first four names at cornerbacks are all but certain to make the team. The interesting player to watch during camp is Ras-I Dowling. Dowling has been plagued with injuries throughout his career, but has made an early impression at practice. If he can stay healthy and continue this level of play, perhaps he can supplant Marquise Cole for a roster spot.
Steve Gregory and Adrian Wilson are not guaranteed to make the team, but I feel pretty confident Wilson is a lock. Between the safety and cornerback position, I expect 10 players to make the roster. Given the Patriots struggles defending the pass the past few seasons, the competition is welcomed.
Special Teams: 3
Kicker: Stephen Gostkowski
Punter: Zoltan Mesko
Long Snapper: Danny Aiken
No surprises here. Gostkowski and Mesko are on a bit of a hot seat, but I do not see either of them in serious jeopardy of losing their job.
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