With the first three preseason games in the books, it is time to take another look at pinning the Patriots 53-man roster. We’ve gotten to see everyone on the playing field with the exception of punter Corey Bojorquez in game action.
The team has one more game left at the Giants before the cut down takes place and the coaches have a lot of decisions to make on the bottom third of the roster. With some injuries, the team has already made some changes and rest assured, the 53-man roster on cut down day will no doubt look much different around mid-November.
Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer
No changes here, the team goes with two QBs and Danny Etling goes to the practice squad where he can learn and try to usurp Hoyer or someone else for the backup job in 2019.
Running backs: (6)
Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, Jeremy Hill, Brandon Bolden, James Develin
No changes here either, however with both Michel and Burkhead hurt, if either is deemed long-term and placed on IR, it will open the door for another back to make the roster. Most believe that to be Mike Gillislee, I believe it would be Ralph Webb who didn’t play last night and they’ll be looking to stash on the practice squad.
Hill looks good this summer, he got dinged up against the Panthers but after the game said he was good to go. This group of running backs should be heavily involved in the passing game this year with Burkhead, White and Michel all bringing very good ability there. The backs and the tight ends will make up for the lack of depth at WR.
Tight ends: (3)
Rob Gronkowski, Jacob Hollister, Dwayne Allen
Hollister is banged up now and missed the Carolina game. He’s projected to be a much bigger part of the offense this season. Allen was reportedly much more in tune with the passing game this year, but we’ve seen no evidence of that in the preseason. The blocking tight end Ryan Izzo is hurt but a candidate for the practice squad. I still find it amazing that Allen is going to still be paid $5 million this year, or half a million per each reception from last year.
Gronkowski is fine and was kept in bubble wrap all summer, but he’ll be a big part of the offense once the games are for real. With he and Hollister and the good options of the running backs in the passing game, we should see plenty of two back, two tight end sets this season, especially in the first month of the season.
Wide Receivers: (5)
Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Cordarrelle Patterson, Riley McCarron, Matthew Slater, (Suspended: Julian Edelman)
There are really only four wide receivers on the roster for the first week of the season due to Edelman’s suspension and Slater being an STs ace only. That lack of depth is of a concern due to the threat of injury and Eric Decker’s inability to morph into the offense, where he’s struggled to pick things up and then abruptly retired on Sunday afternoon.
Riley McCarron is on mighty thin ice here, he may only survive a few weeks until Edelman returns from suspension. Braxton Berrios is a practice squad candidate. McCarron I believe was going to get the nod over Decker anyway since he actually got in some work with top offensive unit against the Panthers.
WIth the three releases, earlier this summer of Malcolm Mitchell, Jordan Matthews and Kenny Britt, this unit’s depth took a big hit and they may opt to scan the waiver wire or make a trade here and now. Malcom Brown is trade bait IMO. And they may opt to move him and others in a package. Mike Reiss mentioned Detroit and Golden Tate… Makes more sense than Dez Whatshisname.
Offensive line: (8)
Trent Brown, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Joe Thuney, LaAdrian Waddle, Ted Karras, Matt Tobin
The state of the offensive line took a hit when their top draft choice, tackle Isaiah Wynn tore his Achilles against the Eagles. Marcus Cannon has been out for a while now too. But once LaAdrian Waddle picked up that 15-yard penalty against Carolina, the coaches inserted Tobin at right tackle. He gets the nod over Cole Croston and Ulrick John right now although it is far from a certainty. Karras is tough and can play center or guard.
Defensive line: (8)
Trey Flowers, Malcom Brown, Danny Shelton, Adrian Clayborn, Deatrich Wise, Lawrence Guy, Derek Rivers, Adam Butler
Keionta Davis is the tough cut here, the team obviously likes what they see in him, he got extended plays with the starters in Carolina. He’ll be a practice squad candidate. Another tough cut is Vincent Valentine who came back from an injury last year and has looked okay out there at times this summer.
The addition of Danny Shelton should really help solidify the run defense in the middle. He and Lawrence Guy look from here to be the starting duo. Malcom Brown on the final year of his rookie contract is relegated to the top backup and possible trade bait, which if they make a move before September 1, could be good news for Valentine.
Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Marquis Flowers, Elandon Roberts, Nicholas Grigsby, Brandon King
Christian Sam is a practice squad candidate, Grigsby and King make it on Special Teams ability. Bentley has had a terrific summer and is primed to earn significant snaps on defense this year. Harvey Langi’s injury cuts short his comeback bid. They may opt to place him on IR or try to sneak him on the practice squad.
Having Hightower back and healthy is a big boost for the defense as a whole. It also allows Van Noy to move back to play to his own strengths. Flowers is a speedy linebacker who can help against mobile QBs and is another strong STs player.
Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Duke Dawson, Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones, J.C. Jackson
Gilmore, Rowe, and Dawson are locked. The two Joneses are now healthy and Jonathan will take over the duties in the slot with Dawson backing him up. Tough cuts loom with rookies Keion Crossen, Ryan Lewis, and Jason McCourty. Cyrus Jones edges out them because of his kick return ability on special teams. I could easily see them opting for one of these final cuts here and this last preseason game may make a difference. McCourty could still make the squad, but was the move in Carolina, putting him in at safety a positive or a negative? His status has been a tough one to read all spring and summer.
Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner, Jordan Richards
The top three are locks and playing very well. Ebner is healthy now and is a special teams’ ace. The much-maligned Richards will make the squad (sigh) due to special teams ability over Eddie Pleasant who was vying for his spot and was released Sunday night, much to the chagrin of thousands of Patriots fans.
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Ryan Allen, long-snapper Joe Cardona
It turns out the roster battle between Allen and rookie Corey Bojorquez wasn’t a battle after all. Bojorquez is the only player on the 90 man roster that didn’t play this preseason, other than injuries. Some are theorizing that Bojorquez wasn’t played for a reason so that the Patriots can stash him on the practice squad because they’ll be no game tape of him.
Gostkowski and Cardona had no competition at their respective positions this summer and probably slept better than anyone.