2012 Patriots Roster: Position Battles to Watch

Shane Vereen Patriots

Shane Vereen figures to be in the running for a bigger role this year. (Photo: US Presswire)

NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko

Now that the draft, free agency and the player acquisition period has come to an end, the 2012 New England Patriots Roster is coming into focus. As of right now the Patriots 90 man roster is loaded with talented players from top to bottom.

Training camp this year will be ultra-competitive as 75 or so players who have a legitimate shot at making the roster will fight for 53 spots.

What will the most competitive position battles be and who will win out? I take a look at all the position battles to watch as training camp is quickly approaching.

Starting Running Back

Candidates: Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, Joseph Addai, Danny Woodhead

All four of the running backs mentioned are likely to make the team in some capacity, but playing time will be tough to come by. The starting running back job will be one of the most interesting battles to watch and will feature young up and coming backs vs. the old veteran.

I think it’s unlikely that Danny Woodhead would become the starter for a couple of reasons. First, his value lies in his ability to play in the two minute offense and secondly, he’s just not built like an every down back. Woodhead’s roster spot is set and he showed in the Super Bowl how valuable he can be to the passing offense.

Based on last year’s production, Stevan Ridley should enter camp as the favorite to get starter reps. He showcased his ability to run with power, but also showed he was quicker and more elusive than thought. Ridley ran into ball security issues late in the year, culminating with a fumble against the Broncos in the Divisional playoff round. Even if Ridley isn’t the starter he is likely to get a lot of touches.

The player I am most excited to watch entering training camp this year is Shane Vereen. He is the wild card in the running back mix and can be viewed as almost another rookie after not seeing the field much last year. Vereen really fell behind in camp when he injured his hamstring and just couldn’t catch up to the Ridley in the battle of rookies.

Vereen finished the year with 15 carries for 57 yards and a touchdown. All those carries came in two games as he was inactive most of the season. Vereen might be the most talented running back in the mix and is definitely the most explosive. He has good lateral agility, can catch the ball out of the backfield and could be used as a kick returner as well. If Vereen is able to remain healthy he could win the job outright in camp.

Joseph Addai was signed two weeks ago to provide a veteran presence and competition during training camp.

Addai is coming off two poor, injury plagued seasons. While his best years are behind him Addai still has a skill set which can be useful to the Patriots offensive attack. Of the group of four Addai is the best pass protector and has shown he can pick up the blitz. Addai is also a good pass catching back, so he could see time as a 3rd down type back.

It will be a slight disappointment if Addai ends up being the starting RB, because it would mean that Ridley or Vereen couldn’t beat him out. If Addai proves in camp that he can’t stay healthy or that his burst is gone, he will be cut and the Patriots could use Brandon Bolden as the 4th running back.

How it plays out: Ridley is the favorite and in my opinion will win the starting running back job, but don’t sleep on Vereen – if anyone is going to take the job from Ridley it will be Vereen.

Wide Receiver

Candidates: Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, Deion Branch, Donte’ Stallworth, Julian Edleman, Chad Ochocinco, Matthew Slater*, Anthony Gonzalez, Jeremy Ebert

As the roster is currently constituted the wide receiver position battle is going to be the most interesting to watch. The position is as deep as any Patriots team in memory. The key to making the roster is going to be how many wide outs Coach Belichick decides to keep and how many special teams only players can be kept as well.

As of right now I see three players who are locks, Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney. I consider those players to be the top three receivers on game day and will provide the offense with more consistent players who can get open on their own and stretch the field. Matthew Slater is also a lock to make the roster, but I want to put him in his own category because he probably isn’t going to be catching passes this year.

At most I think the Patriots could keep seven wide receivers if you include the special teams only players. That leaves 2-3 roster spots among 4-5 players who could legitimately make the team. The next tier of wideouts include Deion Branch, Donte Stallworth, Chad Ochocinco, Julian Edelman, Anthony Gonzalez and Jeremy Ebert.

Deion Branch is probably the most likely to make the team, due to his chemistry with Tom Brady and his knowledge of the offense. Branch makes sense as a #4 WR, because he’s definitely not athletic enough to be a #2 anymore.

I believe there is one roster spot to be had between Stallworth, Ochocinco and Gonzalez. It will be interesting to watch how it plays out. Stallworth has intimate knowledge of the offense, while Ochocinco is bigger and probably more talented. I think you have to lean towards Stallworth because if Chad doesn’t know the offense by now (as was reported during OTAs), he will never know it.

Gonzalez is a long shot, but if he shows he is healthy he could be someone to watch because he can provide some youth, speed and a backup slot WR for Wes Welker.

That brings us to Julian Edelman, who I believe is supremely on the roster bubble. There are alot of people in the media who consider Edelman a lock to be on the roster because of his punt return ability, but I’m not one of them. Can the Patriots afford to spend a roster spot on a player who is just a punt returner? Edelman has been a complete non-factor on offense the past two seasons, despite openings and a need at the position, Edelman has totaled 11 receptions over that time.

Jeremy Ebert could steal a roster spot, but I think it’s likely he begins on the practice squad as he learns the system.

How it plays out: Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, Deion Branch, Donte Stallworth, Matthew Slater (ST), Julian Edelman (PR only)

Read about more position battles on page two.

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15 Responses to “2012 Patriots Roster: Position Battles to Watch”

  1. Oppitz says:

    Edelman has a great value as a backup for Welker and on the special teams.

    He cant play wide out, but he’s certainly the best insurance if Welker goes down.

  2. Big Dan From Maine says:

    How can you say Slater is a lock and not Edleman. Slater is a one trick pony while Edleman can back up at WR and play special teams. I dont see how Slater stays unless he can finally find a spot other than special teams where he can play. Special teams is becomming more an more of a non factor in the NFL.

    • JMC says:

      Slater is excellent at ST- Edleman is overall, mediocre at best on returns and mediocre to poor everywhere else he may play- With two rookies able to play the D-slot, Edleman will little if any defense and in 3 seasons has not proved himself in the WR-slot beyond pre-season……I guess.

      • Ken W says:

        He hasn’t had much of a chance or opportunity to be that slot-wr besides when Welker went down in 2009 in the last game of the year. Here is what Edleman did…
        vs. Hou – 10 rec. 103 yards
        vs. Bal – 6 rec. 44 yards and 2 tds

        plus he had 8 rec. for 108 vs the Jets earlier in that year.

        So he has put up numbers when given a chance but I think he hasn’t been used a lot because Wes has been there to give them that slot guy.

        Has been focusing on the WR position in this off season so maybe this is the year Bill will give him a little more time but I think he will definitely make the team.

  3. I think Edelman makes the team as special team/punt returner/back up defensive player along with Lloyd,Welker,Slater,Gaffney and Stallworth. Ebert and Rourk to practice squad. Connolly and Koppen to split center duties. Overloaded at tackle with Solder,Cannon,Vollmer,Galley, Thomas,Kopa and Hix from last year and Zusevics,Opperud,Warren, and Richard to look at this year. Line should be very good. If new defensive players work out team should be much better than last few years.

  4. Dan says:

    You mean Spencer Larsen not Spencer Havner.

  5. D.T. says:

    WR: Gaffney, Lloyd, Welker, Edelman, Slater are all locks.
    Ebert is a PS candidate.
    Roark is getting cut.

    So the battle is Branch v. Ocho v. Stallworth

    RB/FB: Woodhead, Vereen, Ridley are all locks the battle is:

    Addai v. Larsen v. Fiametta

    Both Connolly and Koppen will make the roster.

    Chandler Jones and Bequette will make the roster for sure. The competition is

    Cunningham v. Carter v. Scott

    • Ryan says:

      Not sure Cunningham, Carter or Scott are on the hot seat. Scott was taking first team reps. Cunningham was hurt last year and filed to have the benefit of a full off season. Carter got extra money to stay on PS, reports have much heavier than he was. My guess is the fat is trimmed on the OL, CB and RB area where we have so much versatility.

    • DWE 2012 says:

      Edelman is a waste of time, effort, roster spot and cap space.
      The kid can’t even gardner a spot of his own in any capacity at any of the possitions he’s played at. Send him packing in a package deal along side 3-4 other guy’ that are unecessary and get a nice pick/cash consideration for them.

      As far as his 1 and only decent ability showinng…..S.T……Punt Returner?

      Uhm’, Vereen, Ridley, Woody and OCHO if he’s kept, can all take that up.

      Julian Edelman is a respecfull WASTE in a patriot uniform. Great locker room guy, all around football player at heart, but a waste of cap space, roster spot effort and energy.

      Arrington, Edelman, Cunningham, Brace and Deaderick: all need to go at the trade deadline in a PACKAGE DEAL along side HOYER or Mallet (either one)IMO.

  6. Hunter says:

    How is it that Kyle Arrington and Sterling Moore are both the “Lone” bright spot? Seems contradictory.

    Also, I feel like I’m the only one that recognized Arrington’s interceptions as lucky and saw him get torched way more than he made plays.

  7. joe smith says:

    its spencer larsen not spencer havner

  8. James says:

    I think u confused him with GBs backup FB?

  9. James says:

    Isnt the fullback, spencer Larsen??

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