NEPD Editor: James Christensen
Two down, two to go.
With two preseason games remaining, the Patriots roster is starting to take shape. Here is my latest stab at the 53-man roster come week one versus the Buffalo Bills.
Quarterback (3): Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett, Tim Tebow
Tim Tebow has done little to warrant this roster spot, but I doubt that McDaniels and Belichick installed an entire shadow offense just to cut a guy a few weeks later.
Running Back (5): Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Leon Washington, LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden,
This group will probably get cut down to four due to an injury sometime during the preseason, but each of the five players have had flashes in the first two games. If someone does get cut, I think it is Brandon Bolden – despite what he offers on special teams.
Wide Receiver (6): Aaron Dobson, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Josh Boyce, Kenbrell Thompkins,Matthew Slater
There is a lot of youth here, which is a good thing. This group is also markedly bigger than the receivers that Tom Brady has been throwing to over the last couple of years. If an injury occurs, Kamar Aiken would be the next guy in.
Tight End (3): Michael Hoomanawanui, Zach Sudfeld, Daniel Fells
Even if he could be ready by week three, I’d like to put Rob Gronkowski on PUP to start the season. The Patriots want a healthy Gronk in week 20, not week 12. Daniel Fells and Jake Ballard could both be surprise cuts if the numbers game hits the TE position. I’m going with a chance that Ballard suffers a “setback” and gets placed on the short term IR.
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. Zusevics hasn’t looked NFL ready in practice and will be best suited to a year on the practice squad.
Guard (3): Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, Marcus Cannon
Unless injuries continue to be a problem, these three guards will make the team. Another swing interior lineman is a possibility, but having Kline (C/G), Cannon (G/T) and Svitek (G/T) gives the plenty of flexibility.
Center (2): Ryan Wendell, Josh Kline
Wendell has this job sewn up. Josh Kline, with his ability to play all over the line, could be the guy to get the call as Wendell’s backup, although Stanky from Penn State is giving him a run for his money.
Defensive Tackle (3): Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Marcus Forston,
Anthony Reshad White, Cory Grissom, Joe Vellano
This group scares me a bit, as I thought that Armond Armstead would be ready to provide some snaps. In his absence, Tommy Kelly has looked very impressive and Marcus Forston has had some flashes of potential. The three cuts here would all be good practice squad pickups. If the Patriots don’t expect Armstead to be available soon, they may need to keep four DT’s.
Defensive End (6): Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Justin Francis, Michael Buchanan, Marcus Benard, Jermaine Cunningham,
I hate to bring up the name Shawn Crable, but I’ve got to do it. I wasn’t a fan of the Bequette selection and he hasn’t lived up to his third round billing so far. He has had some streaks of brilliance, but his tackling and consistency just isn’t there. Jermaine Cunningham hasn’t been great himself, but his ability to come inside and rush from the DT position gives him the edge. Either Cunningham or Bequette isn’t making this team.
Linebacker (6): Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Dane Fletcher, Steve Beauharnais,
Niko Koutovides, Mike Rivera, Jeff Tarpinian
This linebacking corps has the potential to be a dominant force. If Collins continues to improve, he will join the triumvirate of 51, 54 and 55 in making plays for the Patriots. Dane Fletcher is a core special teams player and has proven that he can make a play at linebacker as well. I think Niko and Beauharnais are fighting it out for the last spot.
Cornerback (5): Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, Ras-I Dowling, Kyle Arrington, Logan Ryan,
If Ras-I Dowling doesn’t get his head on and out of the training room, Marquice Cole is going to make this team. The rest of this group has looked average to good during camp and preseason and shouldn’t be the sieve that is has been over the last few years.
Safety (5): Devin McCourty, Tavon Wilson, Duron Harmon, Adrian Wilson, Steve Gregory,
This is a tough decision. Nate Ebner has potential and special teams value. Steve Gregory has experience and consistency, but also has a bigger contract. If the Wilsons and Harmon can step up, it might make Gregory expendable, but I’d like to keep him around – especially with McCourty still knicked up.
Specialist (3): Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko, Danny Aiken,
Mesko and Allen’s competition has been fierce all through camp, but I think Mesko eeks out a victory based on experience and holding. I will not listen to people calling for Gostkowski’s head after missing a couple of preseason field goals.
PUP / NFI: Rob Gronkowski, Armond Armstead
IR: T.J. Moe, Brandon Ford