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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Fri Sep 18 - 12:00 AM | Sun Sep 20 - 05:55 PM

Patriots Roster Projection 2.0: Our final calls

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We've run out of time as we've reached the point where the decisions have to be made. As of 4 p.m. Saturday, NFL rosters need to be trimmed down to 53. Although we know this will be the initial 53-man roster and by no means the final one, tough calls will still need to be made.

Injuries will play a role in determining some of these spots, and it's important to note that any player placed on IR with the ability to return will need to be part of that initial 53-man roster. So a player could get Saturday and return a day later if such a scenario is created.

Here's our projected 53-man roster, which will no doubt have a different look before the September 13 opener against Miami.

Quarterback (3)

Cam Newton, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham

While not "officially" named by the team, Newton is the man and one of the offensive captains. Stidham and Hoyer will remain as backups and support.

Running back (5)

Sony Michel, Damien Harris, Lamar Miller, Rex Burkhead, James White

Harris' hand/pinkie injury likely means Miller stays. I still feel he's more of an insurance policy, which is already needed if reports indicating Harris will miss time are accurate. Still feel Taylor makes sense on the practice squad, where athleticism is valuable in filling multiple roles on the scout team.

Fullback (1)

Jakob Johnson

Not much has changed here since the start of camp. Johnson has been consistent and shown some improvement throughout the summer. If Belichick wants a fullback, he would be the choice.

Wide receiver (5)

Julian Edelman, N'Keal Harry, Damiere Byrd, Gunner Olszewski, Jakobi Meyers

Sanu's release was no surprise based on his camp, but it does raise questions. While he looked sluggish at times and had trouble separating, it's hard to imagine the younger guys offering more potential production this season. So, rather than adding a player to the mix I'll simply eliminate Sanu and go with five – and it wouldn't be a shock if Belichick went with four to start. Devin Ross and Jeff Thomas could provide depth on the practice squad.

Tight end (3)

Ryan Izzo, Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene

Keene is an interesting player in this mix. He showed the ability to line up in the backfield in college and could serve as a quasi-fullback if Belichick is looking to poach an extra roster spot somewhere. Jake Burt showed some promise and could be headed for the practice squad.

Offensive line (8)

Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Jermaine Eluemunor, Hjalte Froholdt, Mike Onwenu, Yodny Cajuste

The first seven appear to be locks – unless Belichick decides to look elsewhere for an alternative at right tackle – with Froholdt and Onwenu serving as the top backup options. With the alterations to the roster rules allowing for an extra offensive lineman to be activated on game day, there could be more practice squad options than usual. Cajuste, Justin Herron and Korey Cunningham are all likely to stick around one way or another.

Defensive tackle (4)

Lawrence Guy, Byron Cowart, Adam Butler, Beau Allen

The big question here remains Allen. Another week without him on the practice field means he could be ticketed for IR to start the season. Xavier Williams could stick around if that's the case, or perhaps Deatrich Wise could take some snaps on the inside if needed. This is a thin spot that Belichick will likely address.

Defensive end/edge (5)

John Simon, Chase Winovich, Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise, Shilique Calhoun

Simon and Winovich should start and Rivers looks healthy and enjoyed a solid camp. Wise has some versatility while Calhoun is firmly on the bubble. His special teams ability could keep him around. Same goes for Brandon Copeland, who I will bring back once a player (Allen?) goes to IR.

Linebackers (4)

Ja'Whaun Bentley, Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings, Cassh Maluia

This is a largely unproven group that Bentley, who was named one of the defensive captains, will try to lead in just his third season. The two rookies have ability but will need to get up to speed quickly given the significant roles they project to receive. This is another spot that could use some more bodies. Maluia was involved in a lot of plays this summer and should stick around in some capacity.

Cornerback (5)

Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Joejuan Williams

Corner is the one area where there doesn't seem to be any problem – other than figuring out how to get everyone some work. Williams could emerge as a matchup-specific player given his size and versatility. UDFA Myles Bryant also impressed during camp and should stick on the practice squad while D'Angelo Ross could make that case as well.

Safety (5)

Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips, Kyle Dugger, Terrence Brooks, Cody Davis

The size and versatility of players like Phillips and Dugger could lead to fewer linebackers being kept. Both look comfortable closer to the line of scrimmage, similar to the style Patrick Chung displayed from time to time. McCourty's steady hand is instrumental on the back end.

Specialists (5)

Kicker: Nick Folk

Punter: Jake Bailey

Long snapper: Joe Cardona

Coverage: Matthew Slater, Justin Bethel

The health status of Rohrwasser could make this decision as Belichick has referred to a lingering health issue for the rookie kicker. Perhaps he goes to IR to start the season if the Patriots aren't comfortable allowing him to hit the waiver wire.

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