TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 24: Running back Stevan Ridley #22 of the New England Patriots rushes upfield against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in a pre-season game August 24, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. The Bucs won 30 - 28. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
QB (3): Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett, Brian Hoyer
WR (5): Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Deion Branch, Matthew Slater, Julian Edelman
RB (5): Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead, Brandon Bolden, Jeff Demps
TE (4): Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Daniel Fells, Alex Silvestro
OL (8): Logan Mankins, Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, Donald Thomas, Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell, Dan Koppen
DT (4): Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick, Ron Brace
DE(6): Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Jermaine Cunningham, Jake Bequette, Trevor Scott, Justin Francis
LB (6): Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont'a Hightower, Bobby Carpenter, Jeff Tarpinian, Niko Koutovides
CB (5): Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Ras-I Dowling, Sterling Moore, Marquice Cole
S (4): Patrick Chung, Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner
P,K, LS (3): Danny Aiken, Zoltan Mesko, Stephen Gostkowski
Analysis after the jump:
- The one name to jump out pretty much immediately is Alex Silvestro. I'm not sure if the Patriots will keep a fourth tight end over a sixth receiver, but Alex has outplayed the depth receivers in the preseason (like Jeremy Ebert) and has actually been a rather solid tight end for his first year in the position. If the team wants to help the offensive line, carrying an extra big-bodied tight end will never hurt, and it will also help the running game as I think the team will carry 5 running backs and no fullbacks. However, I'm still not sold on Brandon Bolden making the team over Eric Kettani, but I think he's shown slightly more value to this point
- Dan Koppen is making the cut for me, unless Brian Waters returns. I think that Donald Thomas and Ryan Wendell are good depth players, and substitutes, but neither is ready to be a full time starter yet. Therefore, I think the team needs Dan Connolly at RG and will need Dan Koppen at center.
- I have the team carrying 6 defensive ends, but mostly because the Patriots have 4 true ends and 2 in Cunningham and Ninkovich that have more experience at OLB in a 3-4 scheme. I think that Justin Francis will make the final squad because of his ability to swing inside and play tackle in the 4-3. By carrying six ends, it keeps the team at only 4 safeties- however, I think Sterling Moore and Devin McCourty's ability to play free safety makes the CB/ S designation a wash.
- I originally had Nate Ebner as a longshot to make the roster because of his lack of experience. However, this preseason he's shown great ability to make tackles and also make plays on the ball, and seems to have progressed a tremendous amount in a short period of time. I think he makes it over James Ihedigbo, because James has sat out almost all preseason and doesn't seem to have the same ball skills as Ebner.
- I think Marquice Cole makes the final team over Dennard. He's shown a good ability to play the slot, and also doesn't come with all the legal troubles that Alfonzo has. If the team makes the postseason, which I think everyone believes they will, it will be better to not have public light shined on a rookie involved with assaulting a police officer. Dennard has made no plays of note, and I think that despite his collegiate talent level, he's just not a fit. Cole is a fantastic special teamer and seems to have the chops to play cornerback.