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Andy Hart's Patriots 53-man roster projection

Posted Aug 20, 2013

With training camp practices now closed to the media and the public, it's time to make a run at projecting the Patriots 53-man roster!

Two preseason games are in the books. Public and media access to training camp is now closed. So even though the first round of roster cuts for Bill Belichick are still a week away, for those of us who’ve seen the bulk of our evaluation time come to an end it seems only logical to put it all together with a Patriots 53-man roster projection.

Clearly there are still some jobs to be won and lost in the next two weeks of closed practice and the final two preseason games. Injuries and health will play a big role at a number of different spots. And as is always the case with Belichick this time of year, last-minute trades and waiver claims could alter his team’s early-September look.

Finalizing a 53-man roster is a tough job when you’re a coach/GM with all the information. It’s an even more tricky assignment for a media member with a more superficial view of the players, competition and team. But, alas, here goes!

OFFENSE (24)

QUARTERBACK (3)

Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett, Tim Tebow

Tough cut – None

Potential cut – Tebow

Analysis: Brady is obviously having a nearly perfect preseason. Mallett has gotten less game action than I expected, especially in the second preseason contest but remains the clear No. 2. To put it frankly, Tebow has simply not been good. But Belichick and Co. knew what they were getting when they signed the former Heisman winner and I still think he was brought aboard for a longer term development and not simply for summer action.

RUNNING BACK (4)

Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, LeGarrette Blount, Leon Washington

Tough cut – Brandon Bolden

Potential cut – Washington?

Analysis: Right now I tend to think given the uncertainty at both tight end and wide receiver that the Patriots could keep all five experienced running backs. Blount has been impressive in his first New England camp, and could be a true backup/fill-in for Ridley. Washington hasn’t done as much in preseason action as I’d hoped and I think there is a chance that he and Bolden could battle it out for a final roster spot here. Under that scenario Bolden is sent packing, but I don’t feel great about that decision given Washington’s lack of impact on offense and Vereen’s injury history at times.

TIGHT END (3)

Michael Hoomanawanui, Zach Sudfeld, Daniel Fells

Tough cut – Jake Ballard

Potential cut -- Ballard

Analysis: This obviously works under the theory that Rob Gronkowski will begin the season on PUP, which is by no means a certainty. If that’s not the case then things change a bit, although I do believe that three others may be needed either way. Hoomanawanui works as both a tight end and a fullback, so that versatility is key. Sudfeld has shown strong, soft hands and the ability to make plays on the ball. And Fells has been the most consistent tight end this summer. That leaves Ballard as the odd man out, especially as he continues to limp and hasn’t caught the ball well in camp.

WIDE RECEIVER (6)

Danny Amendola, Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson, Julian Edelman, Josh Boyce, Matthew Slater

Tough cut – None

Potential cut -- None

Analysis: The wide receiver spot is very new and very green, but there aren’t a lot of questions in terms of the roster. Amendola has already seemingly built a nice rapport with Brady. Unsurprisingly, the rookies have been far less consistent. All three will likely have roles and contributions through the season. Edelman remains a versatile option and top punt returner, while Slater is a Pro Bowl coverage and captain. Mark Harrison is an intriguing guy who’ll probably land on NFI, while Johnathan Haggerty or Quentin Sims could be practice squaders.

OFFENSIVE LINE (8)

Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly, Sebastian Vollmer, Will Svitek, Marcus Cannon, Markus Zusevics

Tough cut – None

Potential cut -- Zusevics

Analysis: Four of the five starting offensive linemen are locked in, but the health of Connolly and Cannon is a major factor on how these roster spots play. Svitek has become a hugely valuable guy with the ability to be both a swing tackle and now a starting-caliber guard. Belichick usually keeps nine or 10 linemen, but it was only eight last fall. And there will always be one or two guys on the practice squad ready for the call-up.

DEFENSE (26)

DEFENSIVE LINE (10)

Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Justin Francis, Marcus Forston, Cory Grissom, Marcus Benard, Michael Buchanan, Jake Bequette

Tough cut – Jermaine Cunningham

Potential cut – Jake Bequette

Analysis: This position is pretty top-heavy and reliable depth is an issue here. Belichick kept 11 in this group a year ago, so 10 is in the ballpark. Cunningham’s time could run out in New England after missing most of camp with an injury, but Bequette has also been pretty quiet this summer after essentially serving as a healthy-scratch for his entire rookie season. Look for at least one undrafted guy – maybe Joe Vellano – to hang around on the practice squad.

LINEBACKER (5)

Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Dane Fletcher

Tough cut – Mike Rivera, Steve Beauharnais, Tarpinian

Potential cut – None

Analysis: Like the line in front of them, the linebackers lack proven depth. Collins looks to be the next-in-line given his rookie versatility and potential, but that’s a lot to ask for a guy coming from a lower level of college football. Fletcher is back after his ACL injury. Beauharnais has been more athletic than I expected and would be a nice practice squader. Tarpinian is a special teams option, but doesn’t make the cut under this scenario.

SAFETY (5)

Devin McCourty, Adrian Wilson, Steve Gregory, Duron Harmon, Tavon Wilson

Tough cut – Nate Ebner, Kanorris Davis

Potential cut – Either Wilson?

Analysis: McCourty is the only guy whose spot is set here. Adrian Wilson and Steve Gregory have split reps next to him, but Harmon has come on of late. Tavon Wilson has done little to impress this summer, and continues to struggle to put his athletic skills to use on the field. Though I’d be surprised, I wouldn’t be totally stunned to see either Wilson get his walking papers. Ebner is a special teams guy with pretty much zero value on defense. Davis could be a surprise to make the roster, but at the very least should be on the practice squad. Of note, Belichick has kept just four safeties for three straight years and four of the last five.

CORNERBACK (6)

Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, Ras-I Dowling, Kyle Arrington, Logan Ryan, Marquice Cole

Tough cut – None

Potential cut -- Cole

Analysis: Though five cornerbacks is more the norm, Belichick did keep six a year ago. Talib is settled on the left side, but the issues (health and otherwise) with Dennard and Dowling make this a tough spot to project. Arrington is a reliable option either inside or to start. Ryan has come on of late, including some time in the slot. If he can prove his value there, Cole could be a late cut.

SPECIAL TEAMS

SPECIALISTS (3)

Stephen Gostkowski (K), Zoltan Mesko (P), Danny Aiken (LS)

Tough cut – None

Potential cut -- None

Analysis: Though perception was that Ryan Allen had a chance to unseat Mesko as the veteran enters the final year of his rookie contract, I just never saw that come to fruition. Allen could stick on the practice squad and be an option down the line. Gostkowski didn’t have a great summer, but he didn’t have any competition. Aiken returns.

What do you think of this roster projection? What changes would you make? Let us know with a comment below!

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