NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
The Patriots wrapped up training camp on Friday and now embark on a schedule which features three games in nine days. With the Jeff Demps signing and some injuries coming up things have changed since the first week of training camp. Who makes the roster and who is on the chopping block? Check out my 3rd attempt at what the Patriots initial 53 man roster will look like.
Quarterbacks (3):Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett
Running Backs (5): Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead, Jeff Demps, Brandon Bolden
Tight Ends (3): Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Daniel Fells*
Wide Receivers (6): Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney, Julian Edelman, Deion Branch, Matthew Slater
Offensive Tackle (3): Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon
Offensive Guard (3): Logan Mankins, Brian Waters, Nick McDonald
Center (2): Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell
Defensive Tackle (4): Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Jonathan Fanene, Brandon Deaderick
Defensive Ends/Rush LB (5): , Chandler Jones, Trevor Scott, Jake Bequette, Jermaine Cunningham, Justin Francis
Linebackers (6): Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower, Rob Ninkovich, Bobby Carpenter, Niko Koutivides
Cornerbacks (5): Devin McCourty, Ras-I Dowling, Kyle Arrington, Sterling Moore, Alfonzo Dennard
Safties (5): Patrick Chung, Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner, James Ihedigbo
Specialists (3): Steven Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko, Danny Aiken
Last Cuts: Dan Koppen (OC), Donald Thomas (OG), Gerard Warren (DT), Donte Stallworth (WR), Ron Brace (DT), Josh Barrett (S), Tracy White (ILB), Spencer Larsen (FB), Visanthe Shiancoe (TE)
Practice Squad: Jeff Tarpinian (ILB), Alex Silvestro (TE), Mike Rivera (LB), Jeremy Ebert (WR), Jeremiah Warren (OG), Matt Kopa (OT), Ross Ventrone (DB), Marcus Forston (DT)
Placed on PUP: Myron Pryor (DT), Markus Zusevics (OT)
Injured Reserve: Jake Ballard, Dane Fletcher
Breakdown: The roster cut down becomes even tougher with the signing of Jeff Demps. In my last roster projection I had the Patriots keeping five RBs total if you include the fullback position, but with Larsen missing time and Bolden playing too well to release Larsen is the odd man out. While Shiancoe hasn’t been on the field in a couple weeks, the Patriots would be risking entering the season with no insurance behind Gronkowski and Hernandez. The Patriots spent too much time this off-season trying to find tight ends to keep only two guys.
UPDATE: With Tom E. Curran reporting that both Sebastian Vollmer and Daniel Fells are set to be activated off the PUP list, I have moved Fells into the third TE spot. The Patriots signed him to a 3 yr. deal in the off-season and has been a target of Bill Belichick before.
On the offensive line I have them keeping only eight players as of right now. It’s not ideal, but they kept just eight to start the season last year. It’s a versatile group, with Wendell, Connolly and McDonald all capable of playing different positions. Offensive tackle is thin, but there is no good alternative on the current roster.
The defense is a bit easier to figure out. The last cut down came down to a 7th LB or a 5th DT. My thinking is if the Patriots decide to keep five safeties there is not room for another linebacker. In emergency situations James Ihedigbo can play LB, which we saw the Patriots experiment with in the first preseason game. I still can’t cut Alfonzo Dennard, because he looked pretty good in the limited practices he took part in. Justin Francis is the last guy on the roster, but if he is cut it will likely be for a DT either Ron Brace or Gerard Warren.