Halfway Point of Preseason Creates Difficult Decisions
With half of training camp and two preseason games in the books, it is time to take another look at the 53-Man Roster and how things may shake out. There has been plenty of competition and there is going to be a lot of difficult decisions to make for the coaches.
OFFENSE — 24
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, James Develin, LeGarrette Blount, Tyler Gaffney, James White
Dion Lewis starts the season on PUP, Donald Brown has missed too much time and has been nosed out by Tyler Gaffney. Blount and Gaffney have performed well enough in the preseason and can each run the ball between the tackles. White is Lewis’ replacement for now in the passing game and backed by Bolden. Develin is the fullback and was truly missed a year ago.
Wide receiver (5): Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Keshawn Martin.
Amendola’s status will bear watching in the upcoming week. He’s been a regular at camp and warms up with the team and has been running the hill during practice, but unless he comes off of PUP soon, he may remain there for the first six weeks of the regular season.
Edelman seems healthy and fast as ever during the joint practices with Chicago. Hogan is assimilating quickly into the offense. Mitchell’s injury set him back, where he was looking to earn early reps. Martin’s status is hanging by a thread. He’s missed too much time and Aaron Dobson had the opportunity to take it away but hasn’t stood out lately.
I’ve been waiting for the veteran Nate Washington to make a move but he’s not showing up enough. Chris Harper and DeAndre Carter are practice squad candidates.
Tight end (3): Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett, A.J. Derby
Gronkowski and Bennett are roster locks and are going to be fun to watch. The Patriots used the “22-personnel” package (2 RBs, 2 TEs, 1 WR) against the Bears with Cameron Fleming as the extra tight end lined up in-line. When they substitute Gronkowski for Fleming, it will create all kinds of mismatches for the opposition’s base defense.
A.J. Derby replaces Clay Harbor as the #3 tight end and has been really coming on. He had a fantastic game against Chicago. Harbor has missed a ton of time and could still wrest the job away from the 2nd-year former QB turned TE but for now, he’s on the outside looking in. Bryce Williams is another guy who looked like he could land the spot but has missed too much practice time. He’s a practice squad candidate.
Offensive line (9): Nate Solder, Cameron Fleming, LaAdrian Waddle, Marcus Cannon, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney, Josh Kline, Ted Karras
Sebastian Vollmer begins the season on PUP and replaced on the active roster by Cameron Fleming. The starting tackles are Solder and Cannon to begin the season with Thuney and Kline at guard with Andrews the starting center.
Karras has taken snaps at center this summer and when push comes to shove he pushes Stork, who has had concussion issues off the roster. But this position will bear watching closely during the final two weeks. Jonathan Cooper hasn’t been seen since the first padded practice and doesn’t make the cut. He may revert to IR
DEFENSE — 25
Defensive line (10): Jabaal Sheard, Chris Long, Rob Ninkovich, Trey Flowers, Shea McClellin, Malcom Brown, Terrance Knighton, Alan Branch, Vincent Valentine, Geneo Grissom
The team is loaded at the edge position, albeit right now, they’re a bit banged up. But Sheard, Ninkovich, Long, and McClellin give the team four very good, versatile edge rushers. Ninkovich and McClellin can also drop back into the linebacker position as well. Flowers and Grissom make the team. Flowers has proven to be a worthy pass rusher and Grissom is a STs stalwart as well as a very good edge setter on defense.
Brown and Valentine (by virtue of his draft position) are roster locks. Branch, who garnered a team suspension and Knighton, are on less firm ground these days. Markus Kuhn has played well all summer and Anthony Johnson came out of nowhere to vault himself right into the mix at DT. Right now, he’s a practice squad candidate. But he’s a guy to watch the next two weeks as he could usurp one of the two vets.
Linebacker (4): Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Jonathan Freeny, Kamu Grugier-Hill.
Hightower and Collins are roster locks and have played extremely well this summer. The only questions with them are whether if the team will try to re-sign them during the upcoming season. Freeny keeps his backup job with solid play and special teams’ ability and just noses out veteran Ramon Humber who has played well.
Grugier-Hill is an intriguing, athletic player who can be a valuable addition to the special teams’ unit and an athletic, tweener on defense. He is a perfect fit for the “big nickel” role on defense and has been wearing the green dot, and calling the defensive signals with the backups during the first two preseason games.
Cornerback (5): Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones, Justin Coleman, Jonathan Jones
No changes here…yet. Butler, Logan Ryan and top draft pick Cyrus Jones are locked in. Coleman is as close as one can get to a lock, and that is where things get very interesting.
Jonathan Jones is an extremely athletic corner who has performed very well this summer. He and Cre’Von LeBlanc are locked into a tight contest. Darryl Roberts had a fantastic game against Chicago with three passes defended and vaulted himself right back into the conversation. Veteran E.J. Biggers and V’Angelo Bentley are still in the mix.
This is perhaps the most tightly contested position on the team. The final two games will tell the tale here as this one goes down to the wire.
Safety (5): Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Jordan Richards, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner
Nate Ebner returns from the Olympic Rugby team unfortunately without a medal. The team is ridiculously deep at safety with essentially six as King can play the position as well. McCourty and Chung are locked in as starters and are still young. Each just turned 29, Chung on August 19. They work extremely well together, McCourty as the QB of the defense and centerfielder. Chung as the in-the-box safety.
Harmon and Richards back them up seamlessly and are solid and dependable. Ebner returns to his STs role and the odd occasional snap on defense.
SPECIAL TEAMS — (5)
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Ryan Allen, long snapper Joe Cardona, special teamers Matthew Slater, Brandon King,
No changes here. The top five specialists are solid and they have no camp competition. Gostkowski is among the top kickers in the game and darned near automatic. Allen doesn’t have the biggest leg in the league but is dependable and puts good hang time on the ball. He’s adept at hitting it inside the 20-yard line.
Cardona has reverted to the Naval Reserve so his service obligation is met and should be here for the foreseeable future. King is a STs standout who earned his way onto the roster a year ago. Slater remains in a class by himself. A team captain, he’s one of the best gunners in the game and has tremendous respect among his peers in the locker room. He’ll occasionally run a route or two with the WRs when needed.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Dion Lewis Dont'a Hightower Geneo Grissom Jabaal Sheard Jimmy Garoppolo Julian Edelman LaGarrette Blount Malcolm Butler New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots edge rushers Patriots Training Camp Photos Rob Gronkowski Rob Ninkovich Tom Brady Trey Flowers