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Paul's Calls: My turn at the roster

Everyone's doing them, and even though no one will get it right, it won't stop us from trying. There's still another preseason game to go before Bill Belichick whittles his crew down to 53 to open the season in Tennessee Sept. 9. And in fact the coach will probably do some more tinkering between the Aug. 31 deadline for final cuts and the time the Patriots take the field in Nashville.


But with the benefit of about a month's worth of football watching we'll take a stab at how things will work out come opening day. We've also added a chart that breaks down how Belichick has gone position by position over the years. (Note: We'll pick eight practice squad players knowing the Belichick will bring at least one from elsewhere). Enjoy …

Quarterback (3)
Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett
Bubble: None
Practice squad: None

Pretty straightforward here with Brady still in command. Neither Hoyer nor Mallett has been particularly sharp this summer but nor have they been shaky enough to be out of a job. The one possible change would be a potential trade of Hoyer, who is entering the final year of his contract. Perhaps a team would be willing to hand over a late draft pick for his services.

Running back (4)
Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead, Jeff Demps
Bubble: Eric Kettani
Practice squad: Kettani, Brandon Bolden

The addition of Demps could mean the end for the possibility of keeping a fullback, and perhaps even an extra wideout (we'll get to that in a bit). His potential would be hard to pass up and it's doubtful he'd make it to the practice squad. Kettani's versatility could land him a spot as the fifth back, a number Belichick has kept often in the past.

Wide receiver (6)
Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Deion Branch, Jabar Gaffney, Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater
Bubble: Donte' Stallworth
Practice squad: Jeremy Ebert

Extra receivers generally participate on special teams and Belichick has worked Branch and Stallworth as return men all summer. Obviously Edelman and Slater make their living in that department already. Gaffney's leg injury could impact these decisions as well, but Demps' kick return ability would seem to take away Stallworth's versatility and therefore makes him expendable.

Tight end (3)
Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Daniel Fells
Bubble: None
Practice squad: Alex Silvestro

Fells' return from PUP presumably gives him the nod over Visanthe Shiancoe, who hasn't practiced in two weeks. Tyler Urban and Silvestro are competing for a practice squad spot.

Offensive line (9)
Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen, Dan Connolly, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, Ryan Wendell, Donald Thomas, Nick McDonald
Bubble: Matt Kopa
Practice squad: Kopa, Darrion Weems
NFI: Markus Zusevics

Brian Waters' return would give Belichick an interesting decision between Koppen, Wendell, Thomas and McDonald. Koppen only plays center and that perhaps could mean the end of his Patriots career in that scenario.

Defensive line (9) Rob Ninkovich, Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Chandler Jones, Jermaine Cunningham, Ron Brace, Brandon Deaderick, Jake Bequette, Justin Francis
Bubble: Francis, Trevor Scott, Gerard Warren
Practice squad: Marcus Forston
PUP: Myron Pryor

Francis would be the lone surprise here and he gets the nod over Trevor Scott due to his versatility to play inside and out. Tough call. Scott could very well make it 10 defensive linemen as well. Warren would likely be available to return if needed, and Pryor provides some insurance as well.

Linebacker (6)
Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont'a Hightower, Bobby Carpenter, Jeff Tarpinian, Niko Koutouvides
Bubble: Tarpinian, Koutouvides, Mike Rivera, Tracy White
Practice squad: None
IR: Dane Fletcher

The growing dependence on subpackages, coupled with last year's move to the 4-3 has lessened the need for linebackers (Belichick hasn't kept fewer than eight since 2002). Rivera and Tarpinian are fighting to replace Fletcher while Koutouvides and White hope to fill the special teams/backup LB role.

Cornerback (5) Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Ras-I Dowling, Sterling Moore, Alfonzo Dennard
Bubble: Cole, Will Allen
Practice squad: None

If Dennard is healthy (he just returned to practice after missing most of camp) he likely gets Cole's spot. Moore's youth earns him a job over Allen as both can play either corner or safety.

Safety (5) Patrick Chung, Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner, James Ihedigbo
Bubble: Ihedigbo, Josh Barrett, Allen, Malcolm Williams
Practice squad: Williams

Basically this comes down to special teams with all of the candidates capable of filling a variety of roles. Barrett is a valuable guy in coverage but hasn't shown the ability to stay healthy. Ihedigbo, while always seemingly banged up, has been able to play through his ailments. Williams could stick over both, while the rookie Ebner has shown enough promise to hang around.

Specialists (3) Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko, Danny Aiken

The kickers are one of the game's best tandems, but Aiken has been a bit inconsistent this summer. Belichick showed last year he's always looking to upgrade the position if the long snapper doesn't settle down.

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