Roster Realities

Patriots vs Bucs

Who will be joining these guys in the Patriots receiving corps?

NEPD Staff Writer: Doug Kyed

Correctly predicting the Patriots 53 man roster seems like an impossible task at times, which is precisely why I’m not even going to attempt to do that at this time.

What I am going to do though, is break down what might be three of the most interesting and inter-weaving positions on the Patriots roster.

You wouldn’t think that depth at tackle would affect how many wide receivers the Patriots might carry, would you? Well, it might be the case this year.

At this point, it seems fairly obvious the Patriots will carry four tackles coming into 2011. Matt Light and Sebastian Vollmer will be the starters and Nate Solder and Steve Maneri will be used as reserves. What’s nice about Solder and Maneri is that they both played tight end in college. Solder started his Colorado career as a tight end and made the transition to tackle as a sophomore. Maneri was a tight end during his entire four year career at Temple.

What does this mean for the Patriots regarding depth at wide receiver? Well, Solder and Maneri each offer intriguing options as a sixth lineman. We’ve seen the Patriots bring in a sixth lineman in the past in either Dan Connolly, Russ Hochstein, etc. What Solder or Maneri could offer in the same spot is some athleticism and possibly some pass catching ability (Solder caught four passes in this Colorado career, Maneri caught 37 in his Temple career).

We all saw Will Yeatman getting first team reps at Tight End last night, which has made a lot of people question whether the Patriots will carry four tight ends or if Yeatman could make the team over fifth round pick Lee Smith. My problem with the idea of Yeatman making the team is that I don’t think he offers more than Solder or Maneri could as essentially a sixth lineman. Maneri made almost twice as many receptions as Yeatman during his college career and in all reality probably isn’t much slower than Yeatman (Yeatman ran a 4.75 40 in his Maryland pro day at 270 lbs, Maneri ran a 4.84 at his Temple pro day at 260 lbs.).

Smith provides similar speed (4.94 40 at 266 lbs. at the NFL Combine), but is far more experienced as a pass catcher. Smith caught 75 passes at Marshall and also offers depth at long snapping (unfortunately for Smith, so does Rob Ninkovich, who is a lock to make the team). So why would the Patriots keep Yeatman, while they could get similar production from far better blockers in Maneri and Solder and a better receiver in Smith?

Aaron Hernandez is how this mess translates back to our wide receivers. Hernandez looks like he lost considerable weight during the offseason (seriously, google a picture of him last season in his 85 jersey and then look at him now in the 81) and will most likely be lining up at WR just as often if not more than inside the box. Hernandez provides some blocking skills and is certainly still useful as a mismatch against slower LBs, but I have a feeling that we’re looking at a future full time WR there. For now though, Hernandez will be included in our three or four tight ends. But what Hernandez could also do is make a traditional 5th WR essentially useless.

Wes Welker, Deion Branch and Chad Ochocinco are locks to make the team, Edelman provides nice slot depth and is very dangerous as a punt returner and Matt Slater appears to be Belichick’s modern day Larry Izzo/Larry Whigham. I don’t think the Patriots need to keep both Taylor Price and Brandon Tate if Hernandez will be lining up considerably out wide. Tate and Price both need to get back on the field, but once they do that might be one of the most interesting battles in the Patriots 3rd and 4th preseason games.

I love players who can play a number of roles just as much as Belichick. I’m intrigued that because we have two tackles that played tight end, that might mean we only need to carry three tight ends. Because one of those tight ends looks and plays like a wide receiver, we may only need to carry five traditional wide receivers. That Belichick guy knows what he is doing.

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15 Responses to “Roster Realities”

  1. TD says:

    Why the concern for Spikes? This is tcamp;BB sits guys that are dinged up or sore so they can be ready to go for Games 1-16 not preseason.

    A bunch of those guys on the ends of position groups seem to be the bubble guys; Tate, Lee Smith/Yeatman, Wright, GWarren, Moore, White & Ihedigbo.

    IMO, I don’t see White & Ihedigbo sticking since almost 50% of special teams snaps have almost been eliminated. If BB truly likes a bunch of these guys, the IR list will be crowded at start of season.

  2. D. T. says:

    QB: Brady, Hoyer, Mallett
    RB: BJGE, Woodhead, Vereen, Ridley, (Faulk PUP, Morris cut)
    WR: OchoCinco, Branch, Welker, Price, Edelman, Slater (Tate IR)
    TE: Gronk, Hernandez, Yeatman (Smith – practice squad)
    OL: Vollmer, Maneri, Mankins, Koppen, Connolly, Wendell, Solder, Light, (Cannon PUP)

    DL: Haynesworth, Wilfork, Love, Pryor, Ellis, Warren(Wright IR or cut, Deaderick/Brace PUP)
    OLB/DE: Cunningham, Carter, Anderson, Ninkovich, (Moore cut)
    LB: Mayo, Spikes, Guyton, Fletcher, White
    CB: McCourty, Bodden, Arrington, Butler, Dowling
    Safety: Meriweather, Sanders, Chung, Brown, Ihedigbo

    Special Teams: Gostkowski, Mesko, Katula

    I love Gerard Warren – he anchored the DE spot last year. And wright looks like there won’t be a spot for him. Eric Moore was okay as a plug-and-play but he’s going to be cut (with a wink and a nod). Might come back like Marques Murrell in case of injury. Spikes might be traded. I’m concerned about him. Katula isn’t necessarily guaranteed a spot. I like Ihedigbo as competition for Brown and depth. I don’t want to cut STers like White and Slater, but you guys may disagree with me. I’m not too happy about just carrying 8 OL but Cannon will return eventually. I hate the Morris cut, but I think the FB position isn’t essential for our offense.

    What do you guys think?

  3. ctpatsfan77 says:

    @Pete T:

    The Patriots do not trade for the sake of trading.

    BJGE is worth more to this team, this year, than a third- or fourth-round pick in next year’s draft.

    • Pete T. says:

      I agree they do not just make trades for the sake of trading. But if the gap between your #1 player and your #2 is very small, rather then cutting your #2 or having them ride the bench all year and give you no value other than insurance, you may be able to utilize your #2 fully and capture good future value. Long term, your team is better off.

      BJGE has value on the open market and the Patriots have excellent depth assuming Vereen and Faulk come back. Are they going to carry BJGE, Wood, Ridley, Vereen, Morris and Faulk? One or two of them have to go.

      • Liam says:

        I would agree, but I don’t think Law Firm would net us a 4th rounder. The equivalent trade would maybe be Tim Hightower to the Redskins for a 6th. I don’t see the value to the Pats in that trade. Marshawn Lynch and Lee Evans went for 4ths, and they both have a much greater pedigree (although I don’t like either nearly as much) than BJGE.

        Besides, Law Firm isn’t exactly going to be commanding Larry Fitzgerald money. Solid chance we resign him. Long live the 4 headed monster that is the Patriot’s backfield!

  4. Pete T. says:

    Part of this also becomes trade value. If you are deciding between cutting Smith/Yeatman or Tate and you can get a 7th or 6th for Tate that might be enough to break the tie.

    It would be interesting to see bubble or bubble+ type players in terms of trade value. For example, if you believe in Ridley as a guy that can get you 12-15 carries a game and you can get a 3rd or 4th for BJGE who is likely in his last year with NE, do you do that deal? I love BJGE and respect how hard he has worked to get here but that might just be good business.

  5. Liam says:

    Yeatman/Smith should come down to who is the better blocker. That’s what their job will be. The pass catching is just a bonus.

  6. Dan says:

    Nice stuff…

    I think we are where we started though, it’s Yeatman or Smith, too blocking TE’s who can catch the football. I feel it’s much more about who plays that postion and shows the most promise, much like any positional battle. I dont’ see the tackle position playing some kind of big role here; although if one of those guys catches a few balls in the future I wouldn’t be overly surprised. But, they are being developed 99.9999% as tackles. The fact that they are athletic, and former TE’s, is common these days and it’s because you have to have that length, the feet etc…to combat the athletic speed rushers in the NFL. We have some nice young talent there right now.
    I do love the fact that the Pats can move these massive TE’s (and include Gronk here) next to another giant tackle in Volmer & Solder (and Light, who will most likely start the year) and stop this pass rush.

    As much as the defense has changed and is now in a newer system, with some nice looking personal…rushing the passer etc…I think the offense has made similar moves to stop the rush with all these big, athletic dudes.

    • TD says:

      I think some of these big guys; Solder, Cannon were brought here to help w/run blocking so that we can pound the rock in the playoffs.

  7. TD says:

    Bill keeps Yeatman so he has someone to play lacrosse with.

  8. TD says:

    I don’t see any of the OT’s playing TE, unless it is a Vrabel type deal at the goal line.

    I would think with the availability these days of WR’s, RB’s and DL FA’s that the young guys on the roster are at risk. Unless they don’t extend/resign Welker & Branch, then the extra guys are Edelman, Price, Slater & Tate fighting for 1 maybe 2 spots.

    I know it’s early, but drafting Solder looks like another 1st round stroke of genius. Can’t wait to see what he does against the speed rushers like Freeny, Suggs and Maybin lol.

  9. AM says:

    Great analysis.

  10. iceman says:

    Hernandez is not a full time WR. He is a hybryd WR/TE that will be used to create mismatches. I would include him with the TE’s. Solder is not catching passes either. He is our future franchise LT. You don’t want him getting hurt running routes. Seymour got hurt as a FB one year. Taylor Price should be on the team regardless. He has more long term potential than Tate and Eddleman.

  11. Billy C. says:

    This is good insight by Doug. I like the idea of Hernandez being a more full-time receiver and really would rather see Price stay. I think Tate could be the odd man out.

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