After re-watching the second preseason game against Tampa Bay, here is my prediction for what the New England Patriots roster will look like after cuts are made at the end of the month:
QB (2) Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett
RB (5) Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden, Leon Washington
WR (6) Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins, Josh Boyce, Matthew Slater, Julian Edelman
TE (4) Zach Sudfeld, Daniel Fells, Michael Hoomanawanui, Jake Ballard
C/G (4) Ryan Wendell, Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, Josh Kline
G/T (2) Marcus Cannon, Will Svitek
T (3) Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Markus Zusevics
DE (5) Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, Justin Francis, Marcus Benard, Michael Buchanan
DT (3) Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Marcus Forston
ILB(3) Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher, Steve Beauharnais
OLB(3) Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins
CB (5) Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington, Logan Ryan, Marquice Cole
S (5) Devin McCourty, Adrian Wilson, Duron Harmon, Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson
ST (3) Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko, Danny Aiken
PUP/NFI: TE Rob Gronkowski, DT Armond Armstead, WR Mark Harrison
– QB: I’m having too many difficult decisions elsewhere to use a roster spot on a third QB that looks lost out there.
– RB: While I’m not totally convinced that all three of Blount, Bolden and Washington make the roster, right now that’s the way I’m leaning. James Develin has a legitimate shot to make the roster as a FB too, getting some snaps with the starters. George Winn and Ben Bartholomew have had virtually no playing time. I’m not sure what to make of Leon Washington getting zero snaps on offense.
– WR: Those six make the roster leaving the rest off almost by process of elimination. The one possible wild card is Kamar Aiken as a special teamer.
– TE: I am not at all convinced that Gronk will start the season on PUP, but until he practices I’ll leave him in that category. Sudfeld and Fells appear to be the front runners right now; if Gronk is included then one of Ballard or Hoomanawanui goes.
– OL: I’m looking at five starters, two game day actives (C/G and G/T), and then two game day inactives. One of Connolly or Cannon starts and the other is active on game days, along with Svitek. Even if Connolly starts at RG he’s the top backup at center. From the rest of the group I think Zusevics is the next best tackle over Mattes and Schwab, but for an interior OL it’s a tossup; Matt Stankiewitch or Chris McDonald could easily stick over Kline.
– DL: At first I had 4 DT (Cory Grissom) and 4 DE (no Michael Buchanan) but I flipped those two, with the idea that this would be temporary until Armond Armstead is ready to play. At the moment I expect the Pats will sign a vet free agent DT after week one to add depth to the position.
– LB: Mayo, Hightower, Spikes and Collins are all locks, and Fletcher looks to be the best of the rest. That leaves a ST-LB spot up for grabs between Beauharnais, Niko Koutouvides, Mike Rivera, A.J. Edds and Jeff Tarpinian. My guess is that the rookie gets the spot, though he could easily be destined for a year on the practice squad instead. Edds is probably the best as a LB for his coverage skills, but Rivera and Niko are better on ST. The coaching staff got to take a good look at Beauharnais, who was on the field for 55 snaps against the Bucs – far more than any other LB.
– DB: Corner is set with Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard the starters, Kyle Arrington the nickel, Logan Ryan the rookie backup, Cole the special team ace/emergency backup, with Arrington and Ryan joining Cole as key contributors on special teams. That leaves Ras-I Dowling, Brandon Jones, Justin Green and LeQuan Lewis off the roster; I can’t make a case for any of them sticking over any of the five other corners. Safety is more difficult to project. Devin McCourty, Adrian Wilson and Duron Harmon are in, leaving two spots open between Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner and Kanorris Davis. I went back and forth between those four several times. Gregory doesn’t play special teams, which you would expect from a backup. Tavon Wilson has looked mediocre, to the point where someone else should get a shot. Ebner is for all intents and purposes strictly a special teamer; Davis is as well for right now, but he has more long term potential as a position player. In the end I went with Tavon Wilson figuring the Pats are going to give an early draft pick more than just one season to catch on and prove himself, and Gregory simply because at this point he’s the best of the rest at the position.
– ST: For a while I was leaning towards Ryan Allen over Zoltan Mesko at punter, but after Friday’s game I am convinced Mesko stays. Danny Aiken has done nothing wrong to consider a change at long snapper.
Practice Squad candidates: Assuming they don’t sign elsewhere I would consider George Winn, Matt Stankiewitch, Chris McDonald, Quentin Sims, Jake Bequette, Cory Grissom, Justin Green and Kanorris Davis as top possibilities.
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