One preseason game is in the books, so why not use this time to take another crack at predicting the final roster? Seriously, how many things will change significantly between now the regular season?
OK, so basing a roster on less than a dozen practices and one preseason game that saw barely any front-line players take the field is probably unwise. No one ever said we were smart, so we’ll use this opportunity to provide our second version of the Patriots roster that will open the season against Pittsburgh September 8.
Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham
This basically comes down to Stidham and based on the early going it appears as if the rookie has the arm to succeed in the NFL but will take quite of bit of seasoning before he’s ready to prove it. Stidham enjoyed an excellent opener in Detroit and showed some poise along the way. There’s ability there for sure but the experience of Hoyer keeps him around as the backup.
Running back (5)
Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, James White, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden
Burkhead’s health is always an issue and he’s missed the last week with an undisclosed ailment. Otherwise this is a deep and talented group that should be a big part of the offense. Bolden’s value is on special teams but Bill Belichick is not afraid to use him on offense as well.
Develin appears to have shed some bulk from his 6-3, 255-pound frame but remains a steady performer as the lead blocker in the running game.
Wide receiver (6)
Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, Jakobi Meyers, Braxton Berrios, Demaryius Thomas (PUP)
Harry has endured some ups and downs but the rookie first-round pick has shown the ability to contribute immediately. Dorsett is slowly moving toward the lock category as well by virtue of a pretty solid camp. Meyers has been the surprise of the group and continues to get reps with Brady, which has to be a positive sign for his long-term future. Berrios shows some flashes as well, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Belichick take a similar road as last year and look to add from outside the organization for help after final cuts.
Tight end (2*)
Ben Watson (suspended*), Matt LaCosse, Stephen Anderson
Honestly, this is the biggest crap shoot on the roster. Watson will be part of the group but beyond that it could be anyone. LaCosse has made some plays, and failed to make some others that were within his grasp. Then he went down with an apparent injury against the Lions. Anderson is a receiving option but too small to provide much otherwise. Ryan Izzo can block but not to the point where he’s earned a spot. Lance Kendricks could be in the mix but missed more than a week with an undisclosed injury. Andrew Beck has lined up in the backfield at times and could factor in as well.
Offensive line (9)
Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Dan Skipper, Ted Karras, Hjalte Froholdt, James Ferentz, Yodny Cajuste (NFI)
Wynn’s status impacts this group greatly. If he’s healthy and up to speed, Belichick might not feel the need to keep Skipper, who played well in Detroit, or anyone else and go with Thuney as his swing tackle. He could stick regardless with depth lacking on the outside.
Defensive line (5)
Lawrence Guy, Michael Bennett, Mike Pennel, Adam Butler, Deatrich Wise
Guy and Pennel should lock down the interior, run-stuffer spots while Bennett handles the pass rushing duties. Butler’s versatility makes him valuable and Wise has shown flashes of being able to get after the passer in his two seasons. Ufomba Kamalu is an athletic 300-pounder who might stick around as well.
Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Ja’Whaun Bentley, John Simon, Chase Winovich, Derek Rivers
So much depth and versatility with this group, and there are more athletes fighting for spots in the background. Simon and Winovich could be considered ends depending on the scheme but that pair as well as Rivers, Shilique Calhoun and Trent Harris have been used mostly as stand up edge players on the outside. Elandon Roberts can play, too, but might be expendable given the versatility others bring. Perhaps he could be a valuable trade chip as the season approaches.
Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, J.C. Jackson, Joejuan Williams, Duke Dawson, Ken Webster (PUP)
One of the deepest positions on the roster. Jones is playing on a restricted free agent tender so there was some thought that he could be expendable, but he’s performed so well and represents a bargain at $3 million so he’s unlikely to move. Dawson is trying to overcome a lost rookie season and has been inconsistent in camp, but he should be safe … or dealt. Lots of tough choices.
Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Terrence Brooks
Another solid position group with a blend of experience and versatility. Harmon has generated some discussion as a trade chip to make room for Melifonwu, but there could be room on the roster for both depending on other decisions. If and when Nate Ebner returns that could change. Malik Gant (S) and D’Angelo Ross (CB) are a pair of undrafted rookie defensive backs who could earn looks depending on how the numbers stack up.
Stephen Gostkowski (K), Ryan Allen (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater, Brandon King, Nate Ebner (PUP)
There’s some intrigue here surrounding Allen and the rookie Bailey. Bailey has a big leg and can kick off as well, which might give Gostkowski some rest. But is that worth taking two roster spots? Probably not, but for now there’s may be room given the injuries elsewhere so they could keep both.