Now that we are a week and a half through training camp, I thought it would be a good idea to take another look at how the Patriots' 53 man roster might turn out week one. We've had some injuries, some players elevating their performance, as well as some players not quite turning heads as expected. That being said, lets take a look at my current roster.
Quarterback (2): Tom Brady, #12; Brian Hoyer, #8
Nothing has changed at the quarterback position so far in training camp. While Zac Robinson has shown some flashes, I don't think that the team will keep a roster spot open for him. He is far more likely to land on the practice squad. Tom Brady is Tom Brady, and Brian Hoyer continues to show why the team made him the top backup to Tom Brady last season.
Running Back (4): Laurence Maroney, #39; Kevin Faulk, #33; Sammy Morris, #34;
Fred Taylor, #21; BenJarvus Green-Ellis, #42
This position could really spark some debate, and I had a hard time deciding. Ultimately, I have the Patriots keeping all five backs. Bill Belichick recently had some praise for the work ethic and playing style of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, so I think he can hold down a spot, as he also has some special teams coverage duties. Fred Taylor has looked shaky at times, dropping some passes, but I still thinks he adds value as a runner (although he could be on the chopping block). Sammy Morris is a solid, versatile all-around back who is the team's top fullback as well, so I think he should maintain a roster spot. Overall though, the only locks for the final roster seem to be Laurence Maroney and Kevin Faulk. FINAL CUT: FRED TAYLOR. I always like to have 54 on my final roster so I have to make one tough final cut. I decided to go with Fred Taylor.
Wide Receiver (6): Randy Moss, #81; Wes Welker, #83; Brandon Tate, #19; Julian Edelman, #11; Torry Holt, #84; Taylor Price, #17
The big cut here is Sam Aiken. He isn't the most valuable receiver, and some of his special team duties, like as the team's gunner, have been stripped from him. So if he isn't the top player he once was on special teams, why would the Patriots use a roster spot on him when the team has so many young special teams options? The other bubble player I have making the roster is Torry Holt. While Holt has struggled in camp, I think that he provides some nice leadership for the young guys on the team. Also, he is a nice injury insurance for any of the guys (Welker, Tate), who are recovering from knee injuries.
Tight End (3): Rob Gronkowski, #87; Aaron Hernandez, #85; Alge Crumpler, #82
Like quarterback, my tight end group is remaining constant. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are on top of the depth chart like many Patriots fans hoped/expected. Alge Crumpler could be fighting for his roster life, but he has looked good in camp and will be a valuable blocking presence in short yardage situations.
Offensive Tackle (4): Matt Light, #72; Sebastian Vollmer, #76; Mark LeVoir, #64; George Bussey, #66
With the Patriots having to keep extra bodies at guard due to the Nick Kaczur/Logan Mankins situation, I have the team going with only three tackles true tackles. I could see Thomas Welch sneaking onto the 53, but right now, I'm going with George Bussey because of his ability to slide over to guard.
**NOTE: Until I here otherwise, I'm planning for the worst and putting Kaczur on injured reserve.
Guard (4): Stephen Neal, #61; Dan Connolly, #63; Rich Ohrnberger, #60; Ryan Wendell, #69
The Patriots are in a real jam at the guard position. Stephen Neal is healthy for now, but has been more fragile in recent years. Nick Kaczur might land on the injured reserve with his back issues. Dan Connolly has been solid in reserve, and may wind up in a starting role. Eric Ghiaciuc has a chance to make the roster, especially if Kaczur/Mankins don't return. To me, this team needs Logan Mankins more than ever. I don't know if that bridge has been burned, but the Patriots should try to get Mankins into camp, even if it means giving him a Jahri Evans-esque deal.
Center (2): Dan Koppen, #67; Ted Larsen, #62
This position was simple enough for me. Dan Koppen is your starting center, Ted Larsen is hopefully your center of the future. Wendell, Ohrnberger, and Connolly are all also capable of playing center.
Defense after the jump!
Nose Tackle (3): Vince Wilfork, #75; Myron Pryor, #91; Ron Brace, #97
Hopefully, Ron Brace can get it together, get in shape, and get on the field. If not, an upstart undrafted rookie free agent, Kyle Love, may take his job.
Defensive End (4): Ty Warren, #94; Mike Wright, #99; Gerard Warren, #68; Kade Weston, #66
Gerard Warren is going to have a spot on this team, whether it be as a defensive end or nose tackle. He has provided a lot of leadership and toughness to the Patriots defensive line so far in camp. Myron Pryor makes Damione Lewis expendable. Mike Wright and Ty Warren are your starters, assuming Ty Warren can get healthy relatively soon. I also think the Patriots will keep one of the rookies on the 53, whether it be Kade Weston, Brandon Deaderick, or Kyle Love. Right now, I'm going with Weston, who seems to be a little bit ahead of Deaderick.
Outside Linebacker (4): Tully Banta-Cain, #95; Jermaine Cunningham, #96; Pierre Woods, #58; Rob Ninkovich, #50
This position gets more interesting if the Patriots pick up a pass rusher like Aaron Schobel or Adewale Ogunleye, or have Derrick Burgess return from the abyss. But for now, it appears the top four rush linebackers are Tully Banta-Cain, Jermaine Cunningham, Pierre Woods, and Rob Ninkovich. Marques Murrell could make the roster as a special teamer.
Inside Linebacker (5): Jerod Mayo, #51; Brandon Spikes, #55; Gary Guyton, #59; Tyrone McKenzie, #44; Dane Fletcher, #45
So we have a big surprise here: I have Dane Fletcher making the Patriots final roster. Every year, a rookie free agent seems to stick on with the Patriots. This year, I think it could be Kyle Love or Dane Fletcher. Fletcher was a pass rushing defensive end at Montana State, where he put up big numbers. He's made the transition to inside linebacker, and it's been pretty smooth so far, with the rookie even earning praise from head coach Bill Belichick. If Fletcher can continue to progress, play some nickel defensive end and outside linebacker as well as special teams, there could be a spot for him on the Patriots roster. Beyond Fletcher, we have Mayo starting on the weak side, with the rookie Brandon Spikes starting on the strong side. Gary Guyton becomes your sub-package/3rd-down inside linebacker, with Tyrone McKenzie a tackling machine that can do a bit of everything. Thomas Williams is a tough cut here. It also appears that Eric Alexander might be on his way out of New England.
Cornerback (5): Leigh Bodden, #23; Darius Butler, #28; Devin McCourty, #32; Jonathan Wilhite, #24; Kyle Arrington, #27
The top four at cornerback are pretty much set in stone, so we'll look at the fifth cornerback battle. I have Terrence Wheatley getting cut here, with Kyle Arrington getting the nod. Arrington has shown some value in coverage this training camp, but remains a cog on special teams. Wheatley wouldn't see many snaps as the fifth corner, and there are players like Brandon Meriweather and Patrick Chung who can move up and cover receivers close to the line.
Safety (4): Brandon Meriweather, #31; Patrick Chung, #25; Brandon McGowan, #30; James Sanders, #36
Bret Lockett has a chance to sneak in here as a special teams player. Brandon Meriweather and Patrick Chung seem pretty set in stone as the starters. Brandon McGowan has been playing in a lot of nickel and dime packages. James Sanders might be facing an uphill battle for a roster spot, but I think the Patriots will keep him around for his value in the locker room and as a safety valve.
Special Teams (3): Stephen Gostkowski, #3; Zoltan Mesko, #14; Jake Ingram, #46
Do I really need to do any explaining with this position? The only possible way these three aren't together is if a player like Thomas Welch makes Jake Ingram expendable as a long snapper, but that is highly unlikely.
1. Zac Robinson
2. Brandon Deaderick
3. Thomas Welch
4. Kyle Love
5. Darryl Richard
6. Terrence Johnson
7. Rob Meyers
8. Thomas Williams