Very, Very Early Look with Many Miles to go Before They Sleep
On Wednesday, we get our first look at the Patriots on the field so it seems like the proper time to do our earliest stab at the 53-man roster.
While ridiculously early, taking a look right now shows that it is going to be a difficult proposition for the coaches to hammer out around Labor Day. Then, the roster that starts the season is usually quite different than the one that finishes the season. Constant tweaking goes on and the invariable injuries occur.
But mini-camps are our first opportunities to see the players on the field doing football type drills, albeit with no pads on. So the occasional over-reactions do and will occur. With that in mind, here’s our take on how the 53-man roster will look.
OFFENSE — 25
Quarterback (2): Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett
Remember that 500-day old foolishness called Deflategate? That is the reason for the first month the Patriots will have the “luxury” of carrying an extra player on the roster. If you want to call playing the first quarter of the season without the best QB the game has ever seen. Once he does return Brissett will become the weekly healthy scratch.
Running back (5): Brandon Bolden, Dion Lewis, James Develin, LeGarrette Blount, Donald Brown.
Much will depend upon the health of Lewis and Blount this summer. If they’re ready to go it will be those two getting the majority of the reps. But if neither is ready (worst case scenario), Brown will help take the reps as the big back and can help in the passing game. James White is the odd man out here…the team doesn’t trust him as a running back and they’re too one-dimensional when he’s in the game. If Lewis begins the year on PUP, then I’m looking for D.J. Foster to find a way to break into the roster. Hey its June and nobody is wearing pads…Gotta make some bold decisions.
If Lewis is ready to go, look for Foster and Joey Iosefa to get a case of the “Foxboro Flu”.
Dion Lewis was a dynamic addition to the Patriots offense in 2015, his health entering the season is a big question mark. (USA TODAY Images)
Wide receiver (5): Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Keshawn Martin.
Not much wiggle room here, the tough cut at least initially is Nate Washington, although he could be added at the expense of another position…OL? The clock finally runs out on Aaron Dobson while rookie Devin Lucien finds himself on the practice squad along with Chris Harper.
Tight end (3): Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett, Clay Harbor
Okay, Gronkowski and Bennett takes little imagination but Harbor brings more versatility than the one-dimensional blocking Michael Williams. Bennett and Gronkowski are beasts in the running game as blockers and Harbor brings the element of versatility to catch, block or line up as an H-Back or Fullback, much like Develin but with a bigger upside in the passing game. Plus, with Bennett essentially a one-year rental, Harbor is the #2 TE of the future.
Offensive line (10): Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, LaAdrian Waddle, Cameron Fleming, Bryan Stork, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney, Jonathan Cooper, Josh Kline.
The OL position is really in essence banking on the return of a non-player, OL Coach Dante’ Scarnecchia. Because for a unit that was the Achilles Heel of the team in 2015, they haven’t upgraded very much. If coach Scar gets them to produce in 2016, he may deserve the term Merlin more than coach. But if anyone can get them to perform it is Scarnecchia.
I can’t see Marcus Cannon being a backup again at tackle especially knowing he’s one injury away from starting. So Waddle and Fleming get the nods here. Who makes it in the crowded interior position? Cooper is a guy with the pedigree so perhaps the Pats can bring out of him what the Cardinals couldn’t. Tre’ Jackson is the early odd man out here. But there can and probably will be a lot of flexing here. And with Brady and perhaps Ebner returning soon, the number may go down here. Ted Karras is a practice squad candidate.
DEFENSE — 24
Defensive line (9): Jabaal Sheard, Chris Long, Rob Ninkovich, Trey Flowers, Rufus Johnson, Malcom Brown, Terrance Knighton, Alan Branch, Vincent Valentine
Here’s where it gets interesting; the Patriots beefed up the interior and have some size there. Valentine is pretty much a lock due to his draft position so right now Markus Kuhn and Frank Kearse are the odd men out. Woodrow Hamilton goes to the practice squad.
On the edge, five may be too many or not enough as Geneo Grissom gets left off and ends up on the practice squad. But this should produce some intriguing competition. Johnson gets the nod here as he can also play linebacker if needed, although he told us he was strictly a defensive end this year.
Linebacker (5): Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Shea McClellin, Jonathan Freeny, Kamu Grugier-Hill.
Hopefully, this isn’t the last season that Hightower and Collins are patrolling the linebacker position together as they’re special. McClellin is a lock for at least this season due to his contract that the team signed him to this spring.
Freeny’s noses out free agent pickup Ramon Humber due to his being a more versatile and being able to plug into the defense more. Grugier-Hill is an intriguing guy that I can’t wait to see once the pads come on in July. I expect that he’ll be making his mark on STs initially but I think the team finds a way to plug him into the defense here and there.
Dont’a Hightower’s looming free agent contract is an issue the Patriots should look to remedy quickly this summer. (USA TODAY Images)
Cornerback (5): Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones, Darryl Roberts, Justin Coleman
The top three are locks, where it gets interesting is the final two spots and I’m going with Roberts and Coleman who will have their hands full with Jonathan Jones, E.J. Biggers, V’Angelo Bentley and Cre’Von LeBlanc. This too should prove to be an intriguing group to watch not only this week but once camp begins.
Safety (5): Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Jordan Richards, Duron Harmon, Brandon King
Top four are no-brainers King is a special teams’ maven and could easily be placed in the next category. No Nate Ebner? For now, he’s a member of the US National Rugby team so he’s out for the moment. Brock Vereen goes to the practice squad.
SPECIAL TEAMS — (4)
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Ryan Allen, long snapper Joe Cardona, special teamer Matthew Slater.
No surprises here the only question mark is with Cardona’s Navy commitment. If Uncle Sam comes calling and forces him back into the service, then Christian Yount, who the team signed this spring would be the guy to take his place.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2016 NFL Draft 2016 Patriots Draft 2016 Patriots Roster 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Danny Amendola Dion Lewis Jabaal Sheard Julian Edelman New England Patriots Patriots Patriots edge rushers Rob Gronkowski Rob Ninkovich Tom Brady Trey Flowers