Early Camp Competition Makes Cuts Difficult
With the first week of training camp in the books, it is time to take a second look at the 53-Man Roster and how things may shake out. While there is still a long way to go, and players have four preseason games and four joint practices to make their case, competition is heating up. With so many injured players on the offensive line, it will make the decisions difficult until things shake out in the coming weeks.
OFFENSE — 25
Quarterback (2): Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett
No changes here, the suspension of Brady gives the team the ability to carry an extra player for the first month as Brady will rate a roster exemption.
Running back (5): Brandon Bolden, Dion Lewis, James Develin, LeGarrette Blount, Donald Brown.
The good news is Blount is seemingly healthy and showing no signs of the hip injury that landed him on IR. But the bad news is, no Dion Lewis and he’s not been on the sideline like many of the other players on PUP have been. He did make a cameo at the end of minicamp so we’ll have to assume his rehab is going well and the team is just taking the precautionary route with him. After he and Blount things are still wide open. Bolden makes the roster, (as every year) because he’s a core special teams’ performer.
Donald Brown edges out James White because of the versatility that he offers. Still waiting for D.J. Foster to show what he can do with the pads on. He’s my dark horse candidate to make the roster.
Wide receiver (5): Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Keshawn Martin.
With Amendola and Edelman on PUP and Hogan and Martin missing the last practices, Aaron Dobson has stepped up. He’s having a very solid training camp so far and has been one of the best wide receivers on the field. Is it enough to unseat Martin who has special teams versatility? No. But he’s not doing a thing to hurt his chances thus far. Bill Belichick stated in his Monday presser that Dobson hasn’t been able to stay on the field long enough in his career. So reading the tea leaves here says, they’re still not convinced yet. But the 4th year pro is having a solid camp.
Martin and Hogan’s health will be things to monitor in the coming days. Chris Harper and DeAndre Carter have had good summers thus far and will be pushing hard as well. They will be practice squad candidates.
Tight end (3): Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett, Clay Harbor
Gronkowski and Bennett are proving to be the dynamic duo that they were projected to be. When on the field together during 11-on-11s they have been nearly unstoppable.
Clay Harbor’s slot is still there for the taking but just by a thread. He’s yet to hit the field and Bryce Williams and A.J. Derby are making a solid case for themselves to be the #3 tight end.
Offensive line (10): Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, LaAdrian Waddle, Marcus Cannon, Bryan Stork, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney, Josh Kline, Ted Karras
The OL position is still a major question mark with the depth at tackle still a troubling point. With Sebastian Vollmer on PUP, Marcus Cannon is taking the first-team snaps at right tackle, which is a scary proposition. Jonathan Cooper’s injury woes resurfaced the first weekend of camp and he’s been bumped here by Ted Karras.
Karras and Thuney have held their own during the first week of camp, something to watch will be how they fare in joint practices and the preseason. Karras brings a kind of nasty edge to the table, something the OL has missed since Logan Mankins left town.
DEFENSE — 24
Defensive line (9): Jabaal Sheard, Chris Long, Rob Ninkovich, Trey Flowers, Shea McClellin, Malcom Brown, Terrance Knighton, Alan Branch, Vincent Valentine
With the team moving towards full padded practices, we should see these guys stepping up their game a tad in the coming days. The veterans, Long and Sheard have been bumping inside on passing downs as interior pass rushers.
Alan Branch is still on NFI but should be coming off of that shortly and will beef up the run stopping presence. Woodrow Hamilton is a practice squad candidate. Geneo Grissom is still very much in the hunt as well.
Linebacker (5): Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Rufus Johnson, Jonathan Freeny, Kamu Grugier-Hill.
Hightower and Collins are a fantastic pair at linebacker but behind them, slots are still there for the taking. Freeny backed them up a year ago. Johnson has intriguing size (6’5, 280 pounds), and a gift for getting after the QB.
Grugier-Hill is an intriguing guy who just noses out veteran Ramon Humber and rookie Elandon Roberts. The team has the added depth and versatility of moving Ninkovich and McClellin back if need be. Both have dropped into coverage in the spring and into camp as well.
Cornerback (5): Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones, Justin Coleman, Jonathan Jones
While the top three are locks, the competition for the final two corner slots has been intriguing to watch. Coleman, Jones, Darryl Roberts, CreVon LeBlanc, V’Angelo Bentley, and veteran E.J. Biggers are all vying for playing time and reps.
Coleman and Jones get the nod so far, but this is far from settled as all have been playing well thus far. Jonathan Jones has terrific speed and has stood out thus far. Top draft pick Cyrus Jones is pushing for playing time as the top slot corner and may push himself into the top 2.
Safety (5): Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Jordan Richards, Duron Harmon, Brandon King
No changes here. McCourty and Chung are solid, steady and provide veteran leadership and each is only 28. Richards, Harmon, and King beat out the veteran Brock Vereen and the surprising Cedric Thompson as well as Vinnie Sunseri.
Nate Ebner is on the Olympic Rugby team and it will be interesting to see how his return will factor into things in the coming weeks.
SPECIAL TEAMS — (4)
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Ryan Allen, long snapper Joe Cardona, special teamer Matthew Slater.
No changes here, the top four specialists (you could add King here as well), is solid and they have no camp competition. The team carried Christian Yount as an extra long-snapper in the event that Cardona’s Navy commitment would conflict with the season. But once that was worked out with the service, he was released to allow him to find another team.
There shouldn’t be any worries here as camp moves forward. The kicking game is in very good hands.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2016 Patriots Roster 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Danny Amendola Dion Lewis Dont'a Hightower Jabaal Sheard Jimmy Garoppolo Julian Edelman LaGarrette Blount Malcolm Butler New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Rob Gronkowski Rob Ninkovich Tom Brady