2012 Patriots Roster: Position Battles to Watch

Fullback

Candidates: Spencer Larsen and Tony Fiammetta

The Patriots went after the fullback position in free agency, which shows me they are going to add another dimension to the offense this year. I believe Josh McDaniels is going to utilize more screens passes than we’ve seen in recent years and with the Patriots personnel thats a good thing. I can’t see anyway the Patriots keep two fullbacks and all four running backs we discussed earlier so there is one roster spot for two players.

Larsen and Fiammetta are two different players. Larsen is the more versatile player. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, play special teams and be an effective lead blocker. Fiammetta is more of the traditional fullback. He earned the reputation last year as one of the best lead blockers in football and was vital to the Cowboys running game. When he went down the Cowboys running attack suffered.

In my opinion you have to give the edge right now to Spencer Larsen. Not only can he play special teams, which is vital to making the Patriots, but he also has experience in Josh McDaniels offense, which is a big advantage.

How it plays out: Spencer Larsen

Offensive Center

Candidates: Dan Connolly and Dan Koppen

Both Connolly and Koppen were unrestricted free agents entering the off-season and I didn’t think there was anyway both players would be back with the Patriots. Both players received multi-year deals with a good amount of money to sign, so it’s likely to be an open competition to win the starting center job.

When Koppen went down week one last year, Dan Connolly stepped in an the offense didn’t miss a beat. Connolly played very well, he held up in both run and pass blocking and showed he can shotgun snap. Koppen is going to have to win the job back from Connolly, which is not a long shot.

Koppen has been a solid and steady player throughout his time with the Patriots. He doesn’t have experience playing any other position, so he doesn’t provide the position versatility that Connolly does. The coaching staff might decided that the team is better with Connolly being the back-up because of his ability to play both guard and center.

The Patriots have been known to rotate offensive lineman and Connolly has shown his value when injuries have popped up the past two seasons. Both Koppen and Connolly are solid options at center and both will have to battle it out in camp.

How it plays out: Dan Connolly gets the nod right now, Koppen will have to win it back.

Defensive End/OLB/Edge Rusher

Candidates: Chandler Jones, Jermaine Cunningham, Trevor Scott, Jake Bequette and Markell Carter

No position will be watched as closely or a scrutinized in camp this year than the edge pass rush position. The Patriots possess an interesting young group of pass rushers this year and there is a chance that all five of the players mentioned make the team in a varying capacity. Who will receive the most playing time?

Let’s start with Chandler Jones. He is a lock to make the roster and he will garner the most attention. Patriot fans have been longing for Bill Belichick to trade up in the first round and draft a pass rusher and he finally did it. Jones will be given every opportunity to make an immediate impact. Jones is at his best when he has his hand in the ground. He will have to learn how to play on his feet a little bit better, but he should at least make an impact on passing downs. His long wingspan is a weapon that the Patriots have lacked in the past.

No player faces a bigger “make or break” training camp than Jermaine Cunningham. Cunningham was a favorite of Bill Belichick coming out of Florida in 2010 and was over-drafted by about two rounds. Cunningham flashed some pass rush ability in 2010, but last season was a complete waste. Cunningham was injured most of the season and barely saw the field at all. In fact he registered only ONE assisted tackle all season, which came in the Jets game.

With two high draft picks spent on players at the same position as well as free agent Trevor Scott being brought in, Cunningham is going to have to prove he can play football. While he may never live up to the 2nd round billing, if he can provide some situational pass rush he could see the field and make an impact. If he fails to improve this off-season, he could be the next 2nd round pick to be cut early in his Patriots career.

Each position battle appears to have at least one wild card player, who could either steal a roster spot from a veteran or one who could emerge as a key contributor. At DE/OLB the wild card player for me is Trevor Scott. Scott was signed as an UFA from the Oakland Raiders. Scott’s career got off to a very promising start totaling 12.5 sacks in his first two seasons. He then tore his ACL in November of 2010 and wasn’t the same player last season. Scott is now two years removed from the injury and should be ready to make an impact.

I am looking for Scott to play a similar role to what Mark Anderson did last year. Someone who can start off as a situational pass rusher and possibly earn more and more playing time.

Jake Bequette and Markell Carter will also battle it out for playing time. Bequette was a productive pass rusher at Arkansas and showed at the Senior Bowl and combine that he has the ability to play on his feet. While Carter, a 6th round draft pick in 2011 out of Central Arkansas spent last season on the Practice Squad and putting on playing weight.

How it plays out: Chandler Jones, Jake Bequette, Trevor Scott and Markell Carter all make it. I believe if healthy Jermaine Cunningham makes it as well.

Starting Cornerback

Candidates: Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Ras-I Dowling, Alfonzo Dennard, Sterling Moore, Will Allen

No position on the Patriots roster was a bigger disappointment last year than the corner backs. Devin McCourty took a major step backwards after and All-Pro season as a rookie. Ras-I Dowling who looked very good for two weeks essentially missed the whole season. The long bright spot was Kyle Arrington who tied for the NFL lead in interceptions and the emergence of Sterling Moore down the stretch and in the playoffs.

The Patriots as of right now have about six corner backs who could end up starting a game. I believe that Devin McCourty is going to be given every opportunity to regain the #1 CB job. McCourty returning to 2010 form is going to be a huge key entering the 2012 season not only for the secondary, but for the entire Patriots defense.

If McCourty is the #1 CB, I would give the inside track to Kyle Arrington for the #2 spot. He was the most consistent performer last season and was one of the few reliable secondary players. Perhaps the biggest wild card on the entire roster is Ras-I Dowling. So much of this secondaries success is going to hinge on his ability to remain healthy. If Dowling is healthy he slots in as the #3 CB and everything else kind of falls in to place. If the injuries crop up again then the Patriots maybe left playing a rookie in big situations, which really cost them last year.

Sterling Moore and Alfonzo Dennard should provide nice depth as the #4-5 CB. Depth in the secondary was really the downfall last year and the Patriots have protected themselves against injuries by improving the depth this off-season. Will Allen could provide a veteran presence and can even play free safety if need be. Allen was getting reps at slot corner back during OTA’s and Bill Belichick has been a big fan of Allen’s from his days in the AFC East.

How it plays out: Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington (Starters), Ras-I Dowling (3rd), Sterling Moore (4th), Alfonzo Dennard (5th)

Starting Safety opposite Patrick Chung

Candidates: Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson

The Safety position was the biggest revolving door last season and was really the Achilles heel of the team all season long. Patrick Chung (if healthy) is entrenched as one starter and the Patriots spent some resources to add another starter this off-season.

First, the team signed UFA Steve Gregory to a three year deal at starter money. Gregory has been a rotational player in San Diego and has been inconsistent at times. The Patriots didn’t sign Gregory to sit on the bench, so he is going to see the field a lot.

The wild card here is controversial second round pick Tavon Wilson. The Patriots used a 2nd round pick on Wilson and made him one of the top safeties drafted so he’s going to have to play.

Did Bill Belichick outsmart everyone again or did he over think the pick and reach for Wilson?. Wilson is going to be heavily scrutinized in training camp and he is going to have to prove he was worth such a high pick.

How it plays out: Steve Gregory has the inside track, but Tavon Wilson will have to play and make an impact.

One thing is certain, this is as deep a roster as the Patriots have ever had. There is competition all across the roster and it should make for a competitive training camp. There are going to be a number of good NFL players who won’t make this roster and the coaching staff is going to have to make some tough decisions. It’s going to be fun to watch.

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Tags: 2012 NFL Draft, 2012 Patriots Season, Chandler Jones, Roster, Shane Vereen, Steve Gregory, Trevor Scott

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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