NEPD Editor: James Christensen
After four job interviews, the Patriots are ready to hire 53 players to compete this year. Some were easy decisions, while others are going to have the interview teams locked in debate well into the night.
Here is my last prediction of how Bill Belichick is going to assemble his team.
Quarterback (3): Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett, Tim Tebow
Beyond being a 3rd quarterback, Tebow does so much more. He is a positive locker room presence, can run the “look” team when the Patriots are facing an option team and can contribute in other phases of the game. I’d be disappointed if Belichick gave up on Tebow this early.
Running Back (5): Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Leon Washington, LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden,
This is one of the harder competitions to figure out after Ridley and Vereen. I’m going to lean towards keeping them all and hoping that George Winn can have a Lawfirm-esque stint on the practice squad.
Wide Receiver (6): Aaron Dobson, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Josh Boyce, Kenbrell Thompkins, Matthew Slater,
I love this group of receivers. Sims might not make it to the practice squad, but if he does, the future of this group is even brighter. There are multiple options at X, Z and in the slot – something the Patriots have lacked the last few years.
Tight End (3): Michael Hoomanawanui, Zach Sudfeld, Rob Gronkowski
Gronkowski still could find his way onto the PUP list, but with Fells and Ballard’s release, it seems like he might be ready sooner than later. Fells just hasn’t been the receiving threat the Patriots want and Ballard is clearly not 100% yet.
Offensive Tackle (3): Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Will Svitek
Vollmer and Solder have the starting spots locked up. Marcus Cannon can play a little tackle and Svitek should have the swing position well in hand.
Guard (3): Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, Marcus Cannon
Connolly and Cannon have the versatility to play multiple positions across the line if needed, which could help the Patriots keep just seven linemen… although I think they’ll keep eight.
Center (2): Ryan Wendell, Josh Kline
Wendell is the clear starter here, with Connolly his backup as needed. After these seven, I’m not sure anyone has really distinguished themselves from the pack, but Kline has the versatility to help the team.
Defensive Tackle (4): Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Marcus Forston, Joe Vellano
With Armond Armstead still on the shelf, Joe Vellano suddenly is in line to make this team – especially if Jermaine Cunningham isn’t ready to contribute or lands on short-term IR. Wilfork and Kelly have looked impressive in the pre-season.
Defensive End (5): Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Justin Francis, Michael Buchanan, Jake Bequette
With Marcus Benard’s departure, Francis, Buchanan and Bequette can breathe a little easier. Buchanan especially put on a show against the Giants, while Bequette also had his best game as a Patriot. Jones and Ninkovich are both top pros.
Linebacker (6): Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Dane Fletcher, Steve Beauharnais,
This group – especially the first five names – are incredibly exciting. Beauharnais and Tarpinian are primarily competing for a special teams spot here.
Cornerback (5): Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, Marquice Cole, Kyle Arrington, Logan Ryan
Ras-I Dowling’s release put a damper on this position, but if Dennard avoids an extended absence from the team they should be fine. Logan Ryan has looked very good for a rookie.
Safety (5): Devin McCourty, Tavon Wilson, Duron Harmon, Adrian Wilson, Steve Gregory,
I will be surprised with whomever gets cut here. Wilson, Wilson, Gregory and Ebner all have good things going for them, but also have a clear reason to be released or traded. This is the cut that I’m most interested in seeing.
Specialist (3): Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko, Danny Aiken,
Mesko and Allen’s battle has been a good one, but I don’t think Allen has done enough to warrant taking over for Mesko. Ideally, Belichick could sneak Allen on the practice squad somehow.
PUP / NFI: Mark Harrison, Armond Armstead
IR: T.J. Moe, Brandon Ford, Marcus Zusevics, Anthony Rashad-White