Patriots 53-Man Roster Projection 3.0 – More Questions Emerge

Steve Balestrieri
August 15, 2017 at 6:30 am ET

Patriots 53-Man Roster Projection 3.0 – More Questions Emerge

As we’ve been saying all summer, the New England Patriots will have many difficult decisions to make when the final 53-man cut down is due in September. There is still plenty of time, joint practices, and three preseason games to go before their hand is forced.

With some injuries cropping up and some uninspired play at some spots, there are a few more questions that are emerging, as it is always is, when dealing with training camp. Thru the first several weeks, we’ve seen some very good competition and some players are going to make Bill Belichick’s decision a very tough one.

So we’ll take our third crack at the roster here on Sunday night with time to digest and re-watch the Jaguars game.

First up is the offense…

OFFENSE (25)
QUARTERBACK (3): Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett

Bubble: None
New England has first world problems at QB, do they keep two or three. All three have won games for the franchise and the feeling here is they continue with the same trio.

The Patriots are set at QB with Tom Brady and Jimmy G. Jacoby Brissett is the insurance. (SBalestrieri photo)

Brady has had a typical Brady summer, that is, he’s been excellent. He’s sharp, always has laser focus and shows no sign of falling off that cliff everyone else in the NFL keeps predicting since 2008 and keeps praying for. His arm strength is still there and he has hummed in a few fastballs into tight coverage. No worries with #12.

Jimmy Garoppolo has had a typical Jimmy G. summer as well. Very inconsistent practices and a very solid, if not spectacular game performance against Jacksonville. He didn’t push Brady as some envisioned this summer, but the team is in good hands if disaster should befall Brady during the season. Brissett is a different story. He’s been a disappointment this summer. I expected a much bigger jump and despite what some of the media wrote about on Thursday, I thought his performance, going against many of the Jags who won’t make their team, was subpar. Could the Pats go with two QBs and save a guy like Carr? Maybe, but I think Brissett stays.

RUNNING BACK (5): James White, Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, James Develin

Bubble: D.J. Foster, Brandon Bolden, Glenn Gronkowski, LeShun Daniels
No changes here, I really love the way the offense looks with the top four backs with White, Lewis, Gillislee, and Burkhead. Burkhead has been exciting to watch and with the additions at wide receiver, the Patriots will have lots of acreage for the backs to operate out of the backfield. There are a few minor injuries, Gillislee with a balky hamstring but it should be fine by the opener.

Brandon Bolden is on the bubble but has had a nice summer. (SBalestrieri photo)

Bolden has stepped in, in his absence and played well. He’s a core STs guy so, Belichick could make a cut somewhere else and keep him around. Ditto for D.J. Foster, a guy I really like. Daniels and Baby Gronk are practice squad candidates.

TIGHT END (3): Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister

Bubble: Matt Lengel, Sam Cotton, James O’Shaughnessy
Just when you thought that Gronk may be hurting a little, he puts on a demonstration, like he did against Jax during joint practices. He was vintage Gronkowski and lit them up to the tune of seven TDs during practice.

Allen is an established veteran and the talk of his being cut earlier this summer, ….sorry I wasn’t buying it then or now. He’s an excellent blocker and can threaten the seams, he’s not a Gronkowski, but then again, who is?

Hollister steps up to the big table after a very impressive performance against the Jaguars. He’s not a big bodied blocker but as a move tight end, he showed he can go deep down the seams, has outstanding hands and can make plays even when taking some hits. He also needs to be better as a blocker but is getting a lot of STs reps. O’Shaughnessy and Lengel are by no means out by any means, and they’ll have to step up their game.

One thing to keep in mind, the two above players are more big blockers than receivers. Do the Patriots want another big body with the weapons they already have or another big target in the passing game? They could always keep a guy like LaAdrian Waddle around and let Hollister play more of a move-TE, in the mold of he who shall not be named.

WIDE RECEIVER (6): Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Julian Edelman, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola, Austin Carr

Bubble: Devin Lucien,Cody Hollister, Tony Washington, K.J. Maye
For the record, I love the job Austin Carr is doing so far in training camp. He’s done everything that they’ve asked from him and has outstanding hands. He doesn’t look like a rookie trying to earn his way onto the roster. But the problem is once again, do they keep a 6th WR plus Matthew Slater and make a cut elsewhere? As much as I like Lucien, he hasn’t done enough to unseat any of the veterans.

The only way I can see him being on the roster in September is if injuries occur. Slater is banged up right now, if he ends up on IR (who knows?), then it may open the door for these guys.

Julian Edelman has had an excellent training camp. (SBalestrieri photo)

But this WR group is going to be fun to watch. With this group, Gronkowski at TE and the backs in the passing game it will be a pick your poison type of game plan.

INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINE (4): David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney, Ted Karras
Bubble: Jason King, James Ferentz, Chase Farris

Center David Andrews and guards Mason and Thuney were all starters last year, are locked and playing well. Karras has outplayed Ferentz …so far but not by a lot. He may end up as being a primary practice squad candidate.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE (4):  Nate Solder, Antonio Garcia, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming

Bubble: LaAdrian Waddle, Conor McDermott, Cole Croston, Max Rich, Andrew Jelks
Here’s where things get interesting. Solder has been hurt, and nobody filling in for him has done the job particularly well. And now Garcia is hurting. This will be something to monitor in the next two weeks to see if the injuries persist, then the team could make a move for a veteran.

But for now, I’m sticking with the same group. If the team decides to cut from elsewhere, Waddle could find his way onto the roster for sure. McDermott is a prime candidate for the practice squad. He’s done well in practice. But in the joint practices with the Jaguars and the preseason game, he didn’t fare well. It will be a big week for him in Houston.

Next up in the defense.

DEFENSE (22):
DEFENSIVE TACKLE (4): Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Vincent Valentine, Lawrence Guy,

Bubble: Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo, Josh Augusta, Adam Butler
With Alan Branch on PUP and probably coming off of that after this week, Lawrence Guy has stepped up and played very well. He’s an established veteran who is versatile and tough. He’s going to be a solid addition.

Butler has stepped up and played very well this summer showing good penetration and toughness on the inside. He’s a great candidate for the practice squad if he’s cut and for the 53 if someone were to go down with an injury. Hamilton and Kilgo have always played well but not enough to unseat anyone.

EDGE RUSHER (4): Kony Ealy, Trey Flowers, Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise,

Bubble: Geneo Grissom, Caleb Kidder, Keionta Davis
Depth has become an issue here. Wise was stepping up and playing some outstanding football the first two weeks but now has a concussion. He’ll be out for the next week and we’ll see if this sets back his progression. Rivers started slowly but has picked up his game as he’s adjusted to NFL speed.

The Patriots will rely on young guys, such as Deatrich Wise and Kyle Van Noy to supply pressure from the edge. (SBalestrieri photo)

So what’s up with Ealy? Nearly everyone has him being cut. I don’t. And I’ll tell you why. Has he been disappointing so far? Yes. But the team has asked him to do a lot of different things, things he was never asked to do in Carolina. He’s by no means a lock but I don’t see them cutting him. Especially since Grissom, who is very athletic and a very good STs player can’t seem to make an impression at the edge.

I really liked Davis during the pre-draft process and had him to NE in one of our Mock Drafts. If he’s healthy I like him to compete for a practice squad spot.

LINEBACKER (6): Dont’a Hightower, David Harris, Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin, Elandon Roberts, Harvey Langi

Bubble: Jonathan Freeny, Trevor Bates, Brooks Ellis
I’ve been intrigued with Langi who the team has moved around and asked to do a bunch of different things. So far, I’ve been very impressed and think he’s approaching a lock status. There are no worries about the top unless an injury crops up.

Roberts to me is firmly on the bubble and it is neck and neck between him and Freeny. I know fans are enamored with his downhill “thumper” style but he’s a liability in coverage and as shown as Jacksonville, frequently guesses the wrong gap or overplays the run and is out of position. See those big holes (79-yard TD run) the other night? That is from the Mike being out of position.

CORNERBACK (5): Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones

Bubble: Justin Coleman, DJ Killings, William Likely, Kenny Moore
The top four are locked and cocked and ready for the season. Gilmore and Butler are a dynamic and intriguing duo. Rowe and Jones (Jonathan) have split the duties for the slot corner and all four have played very solidly this summer. No worries there. If someone goes down, would they trust Jones (Cyrus) back there? Not so much.

Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore have been excellent for the the team this summer. (SBalestrieri photo)

He’s hanging on to his roster slot by a sliver right now over Coleman and Moore who has been outstanding at times this camp. Jones only saving grace is the fact that he looks like the Patriots #1 return man right now. But he didn’t look good on Thursday night doing that either. Bill Belichick has never cut a guy before season 2 with his draft position. But the ice is getting mighty thin ….

SAFETY (3): Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon

Out:  Jordan Richards, David Jones, Damarius Travis, Jason Thompson
The top three of Chung, McCourty, and Harmon have been solid and are locked. The team has depth for those two with Nate Ebner and Brandon King who are mainly special teamers and will be carried down there.

Very disappointing summer for David Jones. When the team signed him, I thought he had a good chance to make an impact. His limited play in minicamp magnified that. But he’s yet to take the field. Jordan Richards? After a nice start to summer, he’s reverted to what he’s done in the first two years. His lack of top end speed and stiffness makes him a liability. His performance on Thursday was a harbinger of things to come. He’s not long for the roster.

Jordan Richards? After a nice start to summer, he’s reverted to what he’s done in the first two years. His lack of top end speed and stiffness makes him a liability. His performance on Thursday was a harbinger of things to come. He’s not long for the roster.

SPECIAL TEAMS (6): Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Brandon King, Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner

Out: None
A good solid group who have had a good camp thus far. Gostkowski still seems a tad shaky me on his field goals/extra points but his kickoffs are outstanding at getting the team great field position on defense. Allen has had a very strong camp. Slater is dinged up right now but the other three of Cardona, King and Ebner are outstanding STs performers.

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