It was six days since I released my last Patriots roster projection, but a lot has changed in those six days. The Patriots played their first preseason game, and we've had some personnel changes, some praise for certain players, among other things that has changed the way I see the Patriots final roster. So lets get to it:
This position once again remains stable. Brian Hoyer played well, and Zac Robinson didn't play well enough to make me think that he's worth a roster spot (although it seems likely he will land on the practice squad).
I was going to go with four running backs, but then I realized I had room for one more. So I'm still going with five. Fred Taylor apparently has impressed coaches of late, so he makes the roster. BenJarvus Green-Ellis got a lot of chances Thursday, although I wouldn't read too much into that. Sammy Morris provides value as a fullback, but he's also on the roster bubble. Honestly, with Laurence Maroney playing behind BenJarvus, maybe even he's on the roster bubble. I have no idea what's going to happen with this position. Ask me next week.
This marks the first time I do not have Torry Holt on my final roster. In the Patriots' preseason opener, Tom Brady played a lot under center, often with multiple tight ends. The top four receivers (Moss, Welker, Tate, Edelman) are pretty set in stone. Taylor Price is your developmental 5th receiver, Sam Aiken could earn a spot for his special teams play. If the Patriots play less four and five receiver sets, there really isn't much of a reason to keep Torry Holt on board. Also keep in mind that on a lot of downs, rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez was used in a receiver-esque role.
The only change I have at this position is Gronkowski and Crumpler switching on the depth chart. This could change back, but Thursday's game made me believe that Crumpler is close to a lock to make this team.
Did Thursday's game make you think that the Patriots need help with their depth at offensive tackle? Good, I'm not the only one then. George Bussey, Mark LeVoir, and Thomas Welch all played sub-par games Thursday. Lets hope the play at this position can improve.
Ted Larsen is the only cut on the interior line, I didn't think he played well Thursday. He could easily change his status with a good finish to the preseason. Besides Larsen, Eric Ghiaciuc has a chance to earn a roster spot, so long as he doesn't play like he did on Thursday.
Before the news broke that Ty Warren was going to land on the injured reserve, I had Ron Brace starting the season on PUP. Now, I have Brace on the active roster with Damione Lewis still getting the boot. Brandon Deaderick had a great game Thursday, and looks like he could be a significant part of the Patriots defensive line rotation as a rookie, as he could be the top backup to Mike Wright at right defensive end. If Ron Brace starts the season on the PUP list, Damione Lewis will likely make the team. Kade Weston and Kyle Love will have their chances as well.
I'm still torn between Rob Ninkovich and Pierre Woods for the final roster spot. Both are never going to be great, but are solid fill-in players. Both have special teams battle. And it seems with the return of Derrick Burgess and the emergence of Marques Murrell, both are fighting for one roster spot.
This top four at this position are remaining the same for me right now. The only one who isn't a lock at this point is Tyrone McKenzie, who seems to have fallen down the depth chart. Brandon Spikes likely won't relinquish his starting spot to Gary Guyton when Guyton returns from injury. Dane Fletcher remains on my final roster for the second straight week. I like what he brings to the table in terms of versatility, instinct, etc.
The only change I have in the cornerback group this week is Terrence Wheatley making the final roster. Wheatley had a great game Thursday and even earned the praise of head coach BIll Belichick. I still think Jonathan Wilhite will make the roster. Upon further review, he had a decent game on Thursday, although he missed a couple of tackles. Kyle Arrington had a couple of big hits Thursday, and he's still a great special teams player.
Patrick Chung had a great game Thursday and has solidified his role as starting strong safety. Past Meriweather and Chung, it looks like Brandon McGowan is still going to have a role on the 2010 team, mostly as a nickel back. James Sanders is on the roster bubble, and his lack of value on special teams could hurt him. Still, unless a youngster like Sergio Brown can unseat him, I think the Patriots will stick with four at the position.
Could Rob Ninkovich or Thomas Welch's versatility as a long snapper make Jake Ingram expendable? No, probably not. That's all. There's no real competition in camp for any of these three.
Practice Squad (8):
1. Ted Larsen, C
2. Zac Robinson, QB
3. Kade Weston, DL
4. Thomas Williams, FB/LB
5. Darnell Jenkins, WR
6. Sergio Brown, S
7. Rob Myers, TE
8. Kyle Love, DL