NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
Prior to last night’s game against the Detroit Lions, Head Coach Bill Belichick said that 80% of the roster was set and only 20% of the roster was unsettled. With the third preseason game in the books, that number has increased and most roster spots are decided. The 2013 Patriots are filled with new faces in key positions and young depth across the roster. This makes for some tough roster decisions, knowing that if a young player is cut, they likely are gone for good. Here is my educated breakdown of how the 53 man roster will look once final cuts are made.
Quarterback (3) – Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett, Tim Tebow
Ryan Mallett hasn’t run away with the backup QB job and the Patriots installed a new set of offensive plays for Tim Tebow. This means the Patriots are likely to carry all three QBs, at least to start the season.
Running Back (4) - Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, LeGarrette Blount, Leon Washington,
Brandon Bolden, George Winn
LeGarrette Blount beats out Brandon Bolden for the final running back spot. Bolden hasn’t stayed healthy and fumbled in the third preseason game. Bolden could end up on injured reserve or as trade bait. Leon Washington makes the team because of his value on special teams and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield
Fullback (0) –
James Develin, Ben Bartholomew
Develin made a late run for a roster spot, but doesn’t offer enough versatility to beat out one of the tight ends. If Josh McDaniels really wants a traditional fullback for his offense, the Patriots could be active on the waiver wire at this position.
Tight End (4) – Rob Gronkowski, Zach Sudfeld, Michael Hoomanawanui, Jake Ballard,
Rob Gronkowski starts the season on the roster with the expectation of playing in week 4 or 5. Zach Sudfeld’s emergence and Jake Ballard’s health allow the team to keep only three healthy TEs to start the season. Daniel Fells could make the final roster, but his cap number and lack of impact may force the Patriots hand. I would be surprised if the Patriots don’t add another tight end to the roster from outside the organization by the start of the regular season.
Wide Receiver (6) – Danny Amendola, Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater,
Quentin Sims, Kamar Aiken, Johnathan Haggerty
Prior to camp this position was a muddled mess and looked as though it would be tough to cut down. Fast forward one month and it’s become the easiest position on the team to project. The Patriots have to be happy with the progression of all three rookie receivers. Despite some ups and downs all three will be active on game days. Danny Amendola looks like he’s been in this offense for years and even Julian Edelman has flashed during preseason games. From top to bottom this is the deepest and most explosive WR corps they’ve had in a while.
Offensive Tackles (3) - Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Will Svitek,
The Patriots have their bookend tackles set in stone for the next three years. Will Svitek provides an adequate swing tackle and has improved his standing on the team by playing some Guard (albeit not well). Markus Zusevics hasn’t shown enough to make the team, but lands on the practice squad if he clears waivers.
Interior Linemen (4) – Logan Mankins, Marcus Cannon, Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell,
Josh Kline, Chris McDonald, Luke Patterson, Brice Schwab
The best trait of the Patriots offensive line is their versatility. Svitek, Cannon, Connolly, Wendell can all play multiple positions and both Vollmer/Solder can play either tackle. This gives the coaching staff and front office tremendous roster flexibility come cut down day. Last season the Patriots kept seven linemen (when health and uncertainty was even greater), I see them doing the same this year.
Defensive Tackles (4) – Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Marcus Forston, Joe Vellano,
Cory Grissom, Anthony Rashad White
The thinnest position on the roster and an area the Patriots will be looking for reinforcements via waivers or trade. UDFA Joe Vellano has worked his way on to the 53 man roster and the practice squad at the very least. By starting the third preseason game it was a pretty clear indication that Vellano has pulled ahead of fellow UDFA Cory Grissom. Tommy Kelly looks like a stud and a free agent bargain, he’ll make a big impact on the defense this season. Armond Armstead will start the season on NFI list and could make a second half impact.
Defensive Ends (5) – Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Justin Francis, Marcus Benard, Michael Buchanan,
Jermaine Cunningham, Jake Bequette
Chandler Jones looks poised to take the next step to stardom and Rob Ninkovich has been great this preseason. After those two the position drops off dramatically. Justin Francis has won a roster spot based on his performance last season and his versatility. Benard, Cunningham, Buchanan, and Bequette are likely fighting for two roster spots. Bequette will have a hard time making the roster. He’s made zero impact in extended playing time against second teamers. Benard and Buchanan may have the inside track. Jermaine Cunningham could find himself on IR or short term IR.
Linebackers (6) – Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Dane Fletcher, Steve Beauharnais,
Niko Koutouvides, Jeff Tarpinian, Mike Rivera
This might be the most talented position on the roster. The top four are all high ceiling players that offer plenty of versatility and scheme diversity. Jamie Collins gives the position increased speed, cover skills, and pass rush ability. Don’t sleep on Dane Fletcher and Steve Beauharnais. Both players are a big upgrade over the backup linebackers from years past. Beauharnais and Fletcher can play in the subpackage.
Cornerback (6) – Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington, Logan Ryan, Ras-I Dowling, Marquice Cole,
Justin Green, Brandon Jones, LeQuan Lewis
This is the deepest cornerback position in New England in a long time. Aqib Talib provides a #1 cornerback with Dennard, Ryan and Arrington giving them talented depth. Marquice Cole’s special teams ability is the only reason he makes the team as he will be one of the last players on or off the roster. Ras-I Dowling, if healthy, gets one more chance to show the ability he did prior to his string of injuries.
Safeties (5) - Devin McCourty, Steve Gregory, Adrian Wilson, Duron Harmon, Tavon Wilson,
Nate Ebner, Kanorris Davis
A position filled with high draft picks and little impact (outside of McCourty). Steve Gregory and Adrian Wilson both make the team, providing experience and a veteran presence to a position that really needs it. Many have Wilson or Gregory being cut from the roster, but Tavon Wilson’s lack of development probably makes the Patriots think twice. Duron Harmon has been a roller coaster this preseason, but still appears to be ahead of Tavon Wilson. Nate Ebner has been injured most of camp and doesn’t provide anything to the base defense. Ebner is a candidate to end up on IR. Kanorris Davis who I think is headed to the practice squad plays a similar role to Ebner.
Specialists (3) – Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko, Danny Aiken,
Ryan Allen made a valiant effort, but Zoltan Mesko holds him off in the punter battle. Allen is likely to end up punter on a practice squad or another team’s roster.
Last Players On: Joe Vellano, Marquice Cole, Ras-I Dowling, Michael Buchanan, Steve Beauharnais
Final Cuts: Jermaine Cunningham, Nate Ebner, Brandon Bolden, Jake Bequette, Niko Koutouvides, Daniel Fells
NFI/PUP Lists: Armond Armstead (NFI), Mark Harrison (PUP)
Practice Squad (8) – Cory Grissom (DT), Markus Zusevics (OT), Josh Kline (OG), Kamar Aiken (WR), Quentin Sims (WR), Justin Green (CB), Kanorris Davis (S), Waiver Claim
* Jake Bequette has practice squad eligibility and would land on the PS if he cleared waivers (unlikely)