DT: Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick, Jonathan Fanene, Myron Pryor
Ron Brace, Pryor and Fanene were all non-participants in practice on Sunday. When Kyle Love left the field after apparently getting poked in the eye, the Patriots were suddenly shallow at the position with Brandon Deaderick playing 3-technique DT.
Ron Brace needs to have a very strong camp to make the team and sitting on the sideline isn’t going to get him anywhere. He needs to be on the field to avoid becoming a second round bust.
Love and Wilfork continue to impress and should be very stout up the middle in 2012. Gerard Warren is a strong veteran presence, but other players offer more upside on this team. I’d say he’s 50-50 to make the team, but I’ll take the latter 50.
DE/OLB: Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, Trevor Scott, Jake Bequette, Justin Francis
Chandler Jones has already acclimated himself as a starter on this team at RDE opposite Rob Ninkovich and it will be difficult to grasp that spot from him as he continues to impress. Trevor Scott and Jake Bequette haven’t stood out too much, but I suspect we’ll see Trevor Scott on third downs similar to how we saw Mark Anderson last year.
Jermaine Cunningham will likely bounce on and off my roster prediction all preseason. At times he flashes and at others he’s invisible. He looks to be in great shape and a step faster than we’ve seen before. He seems like he slimmed down a lot over the offseason.
Justin Francis may be a surprise addition, but he’s getting play all over the defense. I’ve seen him play inside, outside with his hand on the ground, outside standing up and even playing middle linebacker today. Belichick loves Rutgers guys and he loves versatility. What could go wrong?
LB: Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower, Brandon Spikes, Bobby Carpenter, Dane Fletcher, Tracy White
The hardest decision I have to make here is Tracy White or Jeff Tarpinian. The Patriots always keep one of those special teams linebackers around and while Fletcher can play on ST, he’s not the same kind of player.
Dont’a Hightower looks like he’s been in the NFL for five years already out there. I knew he could come in right away and play, but even I didn’t expect him to look this good this early. The Patriots linebackers are going to be a force.
CB: Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Ras-I Dowling, Sterling Moore, Alfonzo Dennard
If Dennard doesn’t get back onto the field soon, he’s going to be coming off my next roster projection. Fortunately, I know how talented he is and that talent is what’s putting him on this list. Will Allen gets removed this time, only because I see how far down he is on the depth chart from practice. He was only out on the field for half of practice.
Sterling Moore continues to impress me big time. Hopefully his competition pushes the starting CBs to get even better. Dowling is a guy who flashes good and bad, there were times he looked a bit lackadaisical.
This is going to sound crazy, but Ross Ventrone looked improved out there today at cornerback. The former Pitt walk-on, Villanova transfer, undrafted free agent, practice squad frequent cut could even find himself on the roster if Belichick wants to keep a defensive back strictly for special teams like he did last year with Sergio Brown. I don’t believe Ventrone had played cornerback before, but he looks comfortable and physical out there so far.
S: Patrick Chung, Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson, James Ihedigbo
Speaking of Patriots defensive backs that can’t cover… I couldn’t stop thinking about how many defensive backs the Patriots carry who can’t cover worth a lick. Sergio Brown, Marquice Cole, Nate Ebner, Ross Ventrone and Malcolm Williams should all be strictly special teamers, but they make up almost half of all of the Patriots DBs.
Ebner was on the field today and lined up at safety with the second team. He looked uncomfortable and obviously lacked the football IQ needed to play the position. If he makes the team it will be strictly as a special teamer early with the potential to coach him up to play safety.
Chung and Gregory remain the starting safeties and look good together, but Wilson is gaining steam on the second team. He could be starting sooner than later at FS. Ihedigbo shed the red non-contact jersey and could be back after starting most of last season.
ST: Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko, Danny Aiken
No surprises here, but Chriss Koepplin looks pretty good behind Gostkowski at kicker.
Last three cuts: Ryan Wendell, Gerard Warren, Jermaine Cunningham
Practice Squad: Jeremy Ebert, Alex Silvestro, Matt Kopa, Jeremiah Warren, Marcus Forston, Jeff Tarpinian, Ross Ventrone, Nate Ebner