By: Derek Havens
The New England Patriots are finally getting back on the field.
NFL training camp has been underway for the past two weeks and it has been one of the more memorable camps in recent memory. As 90 players battle for 53 spots on the active roster, the competition level is high.
A lot has changed since my first edition of the 53-man roster prediction. Over the next couple weeks, training camp and pre-season will determine the fate of many of these players. For now, here is my second 53-man roster prediction. —
Tom Brady is the face of the franchise and Mallett will be the back-up barring a trade, although, that seems highly unlikely at this point. I believe the team will keep three signal-callers, unlike in recent years, which means Tebow makes the cut. While Tebow has struggled, the coaching staff seems determined to work and develop him.
Running Back: 4
Cut: LeGarrette Blount, George Winn
Ridley and Vereen are locks to make the roster. Washington has been tremendous in camp and looks very explosive. Blount and Bolden will look to battle it out for the final roster spot; I see Bolden edging it out in the end.
Full Back: 1
At first I did not believe the Patriots would 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, however, James Develin has received a ton of reps in camp. His versatility and size are intriguing to the team. I would not shut the door on Develin to make the final cut, especially with the projected limited depth at tight end to start the season.
Wide Receiver: 6
Cut: Michael Jenkins, Kamar Aiken, Joe Haggerty, Mark Harrison and Quentin Sims
Dobson, Amendola, Boyce and Slater will be on New England’s roster. Undrafted rookie Kenbrell Thompkins has been terrific in camp and at this point, I would be shocked if he was not on the 53-man roster. The Patriots could be on the look out for another veteran pass catcher, but I believe they think have confidence in their young receivers. After a strong start to camp, Michael Jenkins tailed off and I do not envision a role for him. I include Slater in the position, but he is really mostly a special teams ace and not a true pass catcher.
Tight End: 3
Rob Gronkowski (on PUP)
Hoomanawanui has shown to be a versatile asset for the offense to move around. Fells has had a terrific camp as well and both should be on the team given the current medical circumstance with Gronkowski. Undrafted rookie free agent Sudfeld has displayed impressive athleticism and strong hands. I expect Gronkowski to start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list — missing the first 6 weeks of the season — and then re-join the team when he is ready to go.
Cut: Elvis Fisher, Kevin Haslam
While I see Solder and Vollmer as the set starters, both Svitek and Zucsevics have the versatility the Pats covet in lineman.
Cut: Josh Kline, R.J. Mattes, Tyronne Green
Mankins is the franchise, stalwart guard and Connolly seems to have locked himself into the starting right guard slot when healthy. Cannon has shown promise and versatility in the limited opportunities he has received.
Cut: Chris McDonald
Wendell played the most snaps of any Patriot last season and played admirably during that time. Other lineman have positional versatility to play center incase of an injury.
Defensive Ends: 6
Cut: Jake Bequette, Jason Vega
As of now, New England’s roster is surrounded with intriguing possibilities defensively. The defensive end battle will come down to the wire. 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: 3
Armond Armstead (on PUP)
Cut: Cory Grissom, Joe Vellano, Anthony Rashad White, Scott Vallone
The surprising release of Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick earlier this off-season certainly thinned the interior defensive line depth. Tommy Kelly has been very good during training camp and looks to be a solid addition next to Vince Wilfork. I still believe Armond Armstead will be on the 53-man roster, despite not being able to practice yet, but just not to start the season.
Cut: Jeff Tarpinian, Mike Rivera, Niko Koutouvides, A.J. Edds
The linebacking core seems to be a strong, versatile group for the Pats defense. Jamie Collins has been very impressive at training camp, displaying incredible athleticism. Mayo, Spikes and Hightower should be even better playing alongside each other for the second year. The talent and depth for the Patriots offers high upside and optimism for improvement in 2013.
Cut: Ras-I Dowling, Justin Green, Brandon Jones
Barring injury, the first four names at cornerbacks are all but certain to make the team. Ras-I Dowling has been plagued with injuries throughout his career, but now not only has he been nicked up in practice, his performance has been lackluster. Marquice Cole has a good shot at making the roster for depth as well as for his special teams ability.
Cut: Nate Ebner, Kanorris Davis
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
Cut: Ryan Allen – Punter
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. Danny Aiken has been solid.
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