2014 Patriots: Roster Projection 2.0

Whose bubble will burst when the roster cuts are made?

NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko

The first week plus of training camp is already in the books and the roster is still far from a finished product. Jobs aren’t won during the first week of training camp, but they can be lost via lack of production, injury, or other players making the most of their opportunity.

In the Patriots case there hasn’t been a dramatic change in the roster projection. However there are a few minor changes made since the beginning of camp. Here is my 2.0 version of the Patriots projected 2014 roster along with a few thoughts on position battles up to this point.

Offense

Quarterbacks (3)
Tom Brady
Ryan Mallett
Jimmy Garappolo

Ryan Mallett is in the midst of his best training camp yet and he is worth way more to the Patriots than any other football team. Jimmy Garappolo is a long term project and won’t be ready to win football games if Brady goes down. Mallett isn’t going anywhere right now. Carrying three Quarterbacks means that the Patriots have to sacrifice a player at another position, likely RB or TE.

Running Backs (4)
Stevan Ridley
Shane Vereen
James White
Roy Finch

The top three backs are etched in stone and their roles will be fairly well defined. The fourth RB spot will be one to watch closely during pre-season games and joint practices. I’m not entirely convinced the 4th RB is on the roster at this point and I’m not convinced they carry four true RB into the season. Most projections have Brandon Bolden making the team, but I think Finch can offer something those other backs can’t and that’s his ability to change the game on return units. The fact he’s working as one of the top returnmen, a major area of weakness in past years, bodes well for his chances. Finch will stick around on the practice squad if he doesn’t make the roster.

Fullback/H-Back (1)
James Develin

Develin should see an increased role in the offense moving forward. Over the last year he’s improve as much as anyone on the entire roster. I see him transitioning into an “all-purpose” role on offense. While he can excel as a traditional blocking Fullback on run downs, he can shift to the line of scrimmage as a blocking Tight End in other situation. His versatility may allow the Patriots to only carry two Tight Ends on the active roster to start the season.

Tight End (2)
Rob Gronkowski
Michael Hoomanawanui

It’s risky to carry only two Tight Ends on the roster, but as of today there isn’t a third TE on the roster worthy of carrying.

Wide Receiver (6)
Julian Edelman
Danny Amendola
Brandon LaFell
Aaron Dobson*
Kenbrell Thompkins
Josh Boyce

The only question surrounding this group is whether or not Aaron Dobson begins the season on PUP. At some point in camp the decision has to be made as to give Dobson six extra weeks to heal and regain his strength/conditioning or to get him up to speed with limited time until games. When does that decision come? My guess is that if Dobson hasn’t taken the field by third week of the preseason then the Patriots will opt to have him start on PUP. The other five receivers are roster locks.

Offensive Line (9)
Nate Solder (LT)
Logan Mankins (LG)
Sebastian Vollmer (RT)
Marcus Cannon (RG, RT)
Bryan Stork (OC)
Cameron Fleming (RT)
Dan Connolly (OC, RG)
Josh Kline (OG/OC)
Jon Halapio (OG)

Last year multiple UDFA were signed after cutdown day to add depth to the line. That won’t be the case this year as it’s a deep group across the board. It will be tough to carry 10 offensive linemen with how the roster is currently constituted, so Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell are fighting for one roster spot. Connolly has a bigger cap hit, but also adds more versatility than Wendell.

Connolly can start the season at Center and give way to Bryan Stork at some point later in the season. Stork has missed the last week with an undisclosed injury, but don’t count out Bill Belichick naming him the starting center. Belichick has been bold with his choices along the offensive line before and that could be another example of his boldness.

Defense

Defense End/Edge Rushers (5)
Chandler Jones
Rob Ninkovich
Will Smith
Zach Moore
Michael Buchanan

This position is still light in depth, especially if Will Smith doesn’t return to full health. Zach Moore will spend the season adjusting to the NFL game and probably doesn’t make the game day roster. The team needs to get contributions out of Smith and Buchanan or they’ll have to go outside the organization for help. Once Dominique Easley returns to health I believe he can rotate into the mix in certain schemes.

Defensive Tackles (5)
Vince Wilfork
Dominique Easley*
Tommy Kelly
Sealver Siliga
Chris Jones

Deep and versatile position grouping, especially once Easley gets healthy. The return to health of Wilfork and Kelly will dramatically improve the run defense, while the explosive Easley will improve the interior pass run with the help of 2nd year player Chris Jones. Each player brings a different skill-set to the table and allows Coach Belichick to diversify the front seven looks throughout the game. Joe Vellano is a tough cut after a yeoman-like rookie season.

Linebacker (5)
Jerod Mayo
Jamie Collins
Dont’a Hightower
James Anderson
Steve Beauharnais

Carrying only five Linebackers is a little light, but unless injuries strike it’s a viable scenario. The choice comes down to a 6th LB like Chris White or a 5th Safety like Tavon Wilson or rookie Jemea Thomas. Chris White is much more likely to clear waivers and be available for the “Foxboro Shuttle” during the season.

Cornerbacks (5)
Darrelle Revis
Brandon Browner*
Logan Ryan
Kyle Arrington
Alfonzo Dennard

The strongest positional grouping on the roster. Brandon Browner won’t count against the 53-man roster during his four game suspension, giving another player an extra four weeks to stick around. The Patriots could opt to carry an extra corner or use Browner’s roster spot on a Safety until he returns.

Safety (5)
Devin McCourty
Duron Harmon
Nate Ebner
Patrick Chung
Jemea Thomas*

This is the toughest position to trim down. In this scenario Jemea Thomas gets the roster spot vacated by Brandon Browner during his suspension. His ability to play multiple positions in the secondary, including slot cornerback gets him on the team. This is all contingent on Thomas returning to healthy and getting on the practice field before the 2nd or 3rd preseason game.

If Thomas’ injury is more serious the smart move is to stash him on IR and avoid exposing him to other teams. Patrick Chung over Tavon Wilson will be a bit controversial, but I feel that with all the youth and uncertainty at the position, Bill Belichick will want an established player to add depth. Tavon Wilson makes the team if Jemea Thomas’ injury is serious or if Patrick Chung has lost a step on coverage units.

Specialists (4)
Stephen Gostkowski
Ryan Allen
Danny Aiken
Matthew Slater

Each player is firmly entrenched on the roster. Slater is one of the most valuable players on the roster despite his inability to contribute anything on offense. Gostkowski is coming off a career season and is entering his final year under contract.

Final Cuts
Tavon Wilson (S)
Chris White (LB)
Joe Vellano (DT)
Brandon Bolden (RB)
Ryan Wendell (OC)
Jake Bequette (DE)
DJ Williams (TE)
Dax Swanson (CB)

Tags: Aaron Dobson, Chandler Jones, Devin McCourty

19 Responses to “2014 Patriots: Roster Projection 2.0”

  1. cc says:

    Trade: Wendell, Mallet, Ridley, Slater and Kline ASAP!!!!!

    • steve earle says:

      Might get something for Windell, ?6th, Nothing at this time for Mallett, doubt we see Ridley on the block and sure Slater and Kline stick. Just my opinion.

  2. Russell says:

    I think they keep Vellano, knowing Nickovich can move to LB, and carry less LBers. With Browner out for 4 weeks, look for Bill to carry a guy he can move to the P-Squad. Dobson, or Easley will go on IR out for the season, maybe both. Bill would like to keep short term IR open, I think.

    • steve earle says:

      Are you guessing or does this come from your inside source Russell? Is Dobson’s foot the only issue or something more? And what is Easley’s prognosis?

  3. Larry says:

    After last nights game I want to see a lot more of Tyms before you settle who the wide outs will be…………………

  4. steve earle says:

    Reading lots pro and con about RB Finch and TE Jones. Realizing their fates depent on how they preform in the next three weeks, it’s in their own hands. We fans who can’t attend pratices in person may get brief previews in preseason games which I’m looking forward to but realize much depends on pratices not open to fans at all.

  5. jack says:

    I like this roster a lot. In particular, I’m on board with the Finch choice – this is the only roster projection by a member of the media I’ve seen that has him making it. But I consider it significant because IIRC Lokyo got a lot of flak from a lot of us (including myself) for promoting Easley as the Pat’s projected top pick, yet that’s what happened. He clearly has some ability or connections with the team to interpret the Patriots thinking, which is a good quality to have when you run a site devoted to scouting Patriots prospects.

    MainMan has some good counterpoints on Finch. As far as Bolden, though, I’ve never been a huge fan. I like the idea of UFDAs making the roster, but he’s had a couple of seasons to prove himself and at this point is I regard him as simply a backup/teams guy, whereas Finch offers the possibility of bringing something special to the table in terms of running ability. Mind you all this is without having laid eyes on him yet in even an NFL practice, and is just based in his amazing highlight videos. But it is encouraging that they’re giving him reps as a return guy, and I did read a report somewhere that he had flashed in that area.

    In terms of Hawkins, I’m a believer you can’t get enough depth at CB. But, at this point, and I hardly believe this is true, but the Pats have enough depth at CB. There’s real quality top-to-bottom, they’re all worst legit NFL starters, although Arrington’s skillset is limited to the slot. I would love it if they can sneak him through waivers though, because he’s flashed at times in camp, according to reports.

    As far as Chung over Wilson, well, I’m still bitter about that stupid Wilson pick. But that’s water under the bridge. I like Chung for the physicality he brings, and I’m holding out hope that he can somehow become the starter again at safety. He certainly has the physical capabilities, and maybe the influence of Revis and level of quality in general of the CBs will help him get some mojo going in in terms of coverage. That would be awesome. Then again if Wilson suddenly pops, or Ebner, that would be awesome too. It just doesn’t seem like that’s going to happen as they’ve both had a couple of seasons to show something.

    It’s interesting and cool that Zach Moore makes the team nn this projection. I know he’s a project, but I do like the idea of culling talent from the smaller schools and bringing them along. It gives you a better chance of finding a diamond in the rough. He’s profiles as real NFL DE in terms of size and measurables, and hopefully that converts to a useful player in the future. He must be showing enough that they may not want to expose him to waivers, at least so far, so that’s a positive development at an important position where the Pats don’t have much depth.

    I noticed another rookie to stick is Jemea Thomas. I think he’s the safety/corner type who brings versatility and toughness to the table. I personally am not sure he’s any more than a backup, but IIRC he can surprise with a great play every once in a while.

  6. Jack T says:

    It would be a shame to lose a back like Gray or Houston. They’ll need at least one of them going into the second half of the season. Crazy thought but I wonder if they ever considered trying Houston out at a defensive position like safety in the interim?

    A ton of players will be starting out the season buried on reserve PUP and IR (and delegated IR – one player only with the right to return this season from the IR list… this is purely an insurance policy – I’m guessing it will be someone who practiced in preseason and thus wouldn’t qualify for PUP because they’ve practiced. There’s a possibility we could see a QB relegated to DIR though. Just too many players to let go to make room for carrying three QBs on the 53 man roster.

    One has to be a Philadelphia lawyer to comprehend the PUP and IR rules. Here’s a good summation of how the 49ers have manipulated their roster and why: http://www.ninersnation.com/2014/7/18/5914295/nfl-pup-list-rules-injured-reserve-nfi-list-rules-49ers-2014

  7. GM-in-Training says:

    It’s a thoughtful, well-considered roster that I mostly agree with.
    I wonder if they will try to slide one of the younger OL guys onto the practice squad.
    I also think Finch lacks the pizzaz to make the 53-man roster. He would be very easy to park on the practice squad. His only real “advantage” is that he’s hard to see behind the the OL before he shoots the gap, but Danny Woodhead he aint (Woodhead was 25 pounds heavier, stronger, faster, with better agility numbers). 3rd-down backs need to be able to block.

    I like Nate Ebner, but this is the only roster I’ve seen projecting him to stick this year. Dunno.

    I know Justin Jones has a long way to go, but he offers red zone threat that nobody else on the team but Gronk has, and I REALLY think that’s worth taking a flyer on the guy.

    Also, which position do you think is most likely to see the Pats grab a veteran the day after 53-man cut down?

    • steve earle says:

      Jemea Thomas may well be an option over Ebner on the roster from what I read into reports. I was surprised Ebner made this roster but he is good sp.T. As for Jones to stick he has to show alot more through the rest of camp then he has so far. He’s not likely to have much interst shown if cut and very good chance he goes onto p sqd.

  8. MaineMan says:

    Finch can offer something those other backs can’t and that’s his

    So, cutting Bolden
    - who’s consistently demonstrated *for two NFL seasons* that he’s at least capable of producing decent yardage running inside OR outside, that he’s more than competent as a receiver out of the backfield (72% catch rate, 7.8 YAC per catch), and that he’s a valuable contributor on ALL FOUR special teams units. He’s certainly not the greatest thing since sliced bread, but he has established himself as a solid backup in actual NFL competition.

    and keeping Finch because of his *as yet unproven* “ability to change the game on return units”? And, “the fact he’s working as one of the top returnmen ….. bodes well for his chances”? Heck, as far as I can tell from media reports, Travis Hawkins has also been “working as one of the top returnmen”. Hawkins is bigger (5095 vs. 5063), faster (4.37 vs. 4.50) and showed much more agility in drills (6.80 vs. 7.07 3-cone, AND had a much more consistent record of accomplishment as a return man in college than Finch did.

    So, why does Finch keep getting singled out so much as “THE guy” that he’s likely to bump Bolden off the roster? I’m not seeing the basis for this at all.

    • steve earle says:

      Your right Finch has yet to prove anything but that’s what camp is for. Agree Bolden is a solid backup but realisticly is at or near the bottom of the depth chart and thus vunerable. So with three weeks of camp left there is plenty of time for someone, Bolden Finch or who ever, to grab the oppertunitys and make the team. Mike’s projection is just guess work at this point and gives us an excuse to talk football. Gotta love it !

    • Big Dan From Maine says:

      Why not keep a kick return specialist rather than have a player that can contribute in other areas of the game on the team. We have a kick coverage specialist that cannot do anything other than cover kicks. Nothing against Slater he is a heck of a coverage guy, but when 90% of the kickoffs are not returnable, why save a roster spot for a guy that only covers kicks? I say Keep Finch Slater and Hawkins, that way we have special teams depth, who needs extra linemen or tight ends?

      • steve earle says:

        Hoping this kid Finch does better the rest of preseason or Slater will be fielding KO’s again. Hard to judge your others as they didn’t do much. Have to withold judgement awhile longer I think.

  9. Dave says:

    Why do you think Josh Boyce is a lock?

    10 DL seems like a lot; I think they will have more ST types (probably a 6th LB).

    • Blank says:

      Having the ability to rotate in fresh bodies throughout the game (like the Giants did in the 1st super bowl against the Pats) may be a reason to keep 10 on the DL.

    • steve earle says:

      Wolfolk, Kelly and Easley all coming off injuries and the two former getting long in the tooth is one realistic reason for keeping 10 DL I think. Like Blank says rotating them keep them fresh and hopefully injury free. Seems a smart approach imo.
      As for a sp team LB, maybe but perhaps going with a db for the slot would be better? A couple rookies on board may fit better then bringing in an outsider?

  10. Josh says:

    Mike, I’m a little surprised at the lack of UDFAs you have making the roster. Sure, most positions seem like locks, but BB seems to always keep a couple UDFAs in order to help appeal to future UDFAs after each draft ends. I like putting Finch on the roster and can see that happening, I might add Swanson too for at least Browner’s 4 game suspension maybe?

  11. steve earle says:

    Well Mike, I think you pretty much nailed it overall, good job. I’d be very happy starting the season with this roster. Hate to expose some of the rookies but hopefully TE Jones, WR VanHooser and CB Swanson clear and go onto pratice sqd.






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