NEPD Editor: Doug Kyed
Friday was the last day of training camp for the Patriots, and therefore the last day that fans and the media could get a good look at this 2012 team in practice.
From here on out, we’ll only be able to judge how the roster will break down in games. That will be made easier since the Pats have three games in just ten days, with the first coming tonight against the Eagles.
I’m sure things will change after I see the order of the depth chart after the Eagles game, but here’s my weekly roster prediction.
QB: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett
No changes here, Mallett would have to have a tremendous end of the preseason to pass Hoyer on the depth chart.
Last man out: None
RB: Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen, Jeff Demps, Brandon Bolden (FB)
Demps is the biggest addition here, removing a fullback on my roster. Bolden has got snaps at FB in two RB sets since Larsen went down with injury and could be used there in Josh McDaniels’ FB-happy offense.
Demps could be used in a number of roles in the Patriots offense, but will likely start off strictly as a special teams player. He’s a one move-type back, and that sort of player should be best used as a kick returner in the NFL with his pure speed.
Last man out: Spencer Larsen
WR: Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, Donte Stallworth, Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater (ST)
Gaffney’s injury could shake things up here in the next few weeks, but assuming he gets back on the field and healthy, these are the six players I see making the roster. Branch is a Brady favorite, but so is Stallworth. They may only be a year apart, but Stallworth looks much younger on the field.
Last man out: Deion Branch
TE: Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Daniel Fells
Fells’ return spells doom for Visanthe Shiancoe. I never saw the Patriots carrying four tight ends, and with a solid training camp, Shiancoe at least had the chance of passing Fells. Shiancoe has been out nearly as long as Fells, and Fells is the more talented player.
Last man out: Alex Silvestro
OT: Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon
Vollmer’s return is huge for the Patriots, and it’s nice to see him come back this early in the preseason. That means he must be healthy and hopefully that can keep that up all year.
Last man out: Darrion Weems
OG: Logan Mankins, Brian Waters, Dan Connolly (OC)
I still see Waters making it back in time for the start of the season. As much as the Patriots are saying they don’t know on Waters, my gut is that they’re hearing from him regularly and that he’s fully expected back.
Last man out: Donald Thomas
OC: Ryan Wendell (OG), Nick McDonald (OT, OG)
McDonald brings some nice versatility to the Patriots offensive line, especially with Vollmer’s injury history. The Patriots still don’t have a top notch center, but if you combine Wendell, Connolly and McDonald, you have a nice player.
Last man out: Dan Koppen
DT: Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Jonathan Fanene (DE), Brandon Deaderick (DE)
I have the Patriots going a bit shallow at the DT position, but they’ll also be running less “big” four man fronts this season with the inclusion of strong run defender Chandler Jones.
Last man out: Gerard Warren
DE/OLB/Elephant: Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, Trevor Scott, Jake Bequette, Jermaine Cunningham
Justin Francis struggled against the Saints, and though he may have some more versatility than players like Bequette and Cunningham, I think the Patriots will take the risk to slip him through to the IR.
Last man out: Justin Francis
LB: Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower, Bobby Carpenter, Mike Rivera, Tracy White
Mike Rivera was getting a lot of snaps against the Saints and should be a player to watch tonight against the Eagles. There’s going to be a battle for the fifth and sixth linebacker spots between Rivera, White, Koutouvides and Tarpinian. This position was a lot easier to predict before Dane Fletcher went out with an ACL tear.
Last man out: Niko Koutouvides
CB: Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Ras-I Dowling, Sterling Moore, Marquice Cole
Some fans might freak out without Dennard in here. The fact is that if he doesn’t come back extremely soon, he’s going to be on the outside looking in, and in my situation placed on injured reserve. The Patriots have three games in ten days, that means very little practice time before the start of the season and less reps for Dennard to take whenever he gets back on the field from his hamstring injury.
Last man out: Alfonzo Dennard
S: Patrick Chung, Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner, James Ihedigbo
Ebner seems to be progressing well for the Patriots on defense, and he’s been taking first team snaps at special teams. Ihedibgo provides some needed depth at both safety positions, as well as being a first team special teamer. Will Allen is a tough cut, because I think he still has some left in the tank. The Patriots have plenty of players who can provide depth in the slot, and Allen is still new to the safety position.
Last man out: Will Allen
ST: Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko, Danny Aiken
No changes here, though Koepplin is a nice emergency kicker.
Last man out: Chris Koepplin
PUP: Jake Ballard, Myron Pryor, Markus Zusevics
These are the only three PUP eligible players left on the Patriots roster. It would be wise to keep all three there for depth purposes in week six. Wes Welker and Logan Mankins proved that it’s possible to come back from a late season ACL tear early in the next season.
IR: Dane Fletcher, Brad Herman, Jamey Richard, Alfonzo Dennard, Matt Kopa
Dennard and Kopa may be surprise additions here, but Belichick has proved in the past (Dowling, Koppen) that he’ll place players on IR even if they have the possibility of returning that season.
Left Squad: Tony Fiammetta
Practice Squad: Eric Kettani, Jeremy Ebert, Alex Silvestro, Darrion Weems, Marcus Forston, Justin Francis, Jeff Tarpinian, Ross Ventrone
This would be a pretty solid practice squad for the Pats. I kept Weems in there just because the Patriots have more depth on the interior of the line than they do at tackle. If Kopa can come back, he could be here as well in place of Weems.
Last man out: Jeremiah Warren
Last Five Cuts: Deion Branch, Dan Koppen, Gerard Warren, Will Allen, Donald Thomas