Minicamp has ended, and the 88 current members of the New England Patriot roster are headed for a short vacation before they return to Gillette Stadium for training camp. By Training camp the roster will be at 90 players, and the various battles for spots on the 53-man roster will begin. These are some interesting battles to take note of:
1. LeGarrette Blount Vs. Brandon Bolden
-With Stevan Ridley as the lead back, Shane Vereen presumably taking on the role as the third-down back, and Leon Washington assuming return duties, there seems like there will only be enough space one more running back on the roster. Blount Brings more NFL experience and success to the table, while Bolden already has a full season of New England Patriot Football under his belt. Both players bring an agressive and bruising style of running to the table, but where Bolden edges Blount out is in the passing game. While he did not play enough to show much in terms of receiving last season, Bolden caught an impressive 32 passes his junior season at Mississippi. Being able to catch the football consistently is an extremely valuable trait for a running back to have in New England's offense, and for this reason Bolden will have a slight edge over Blount.
-Prediction: Brandon Bolden wins the roster spot
-It is uncertain whether Rob Gronkowski will start the season of the PUP, but for the purpose of this analysis i will assume he will not be placed on the PUP. The Patriots offense is dependent on 2 tight end sets, and also is most deadly in these circumstances. So in the case that Gronk and Hernandez both go down at some point, it is necessary to for New England to carry 4 Tight Ends on the active roster. Michael Hoomanawanui was just brought back for another year by the Patriots, and for a very good reason. He not only brings ability as a tight end, but also as a fullback. His decent combination of blocking and receiving skills should keep him on the roster. There are three main candidates for the fourth spot: UDFA Zach Sudfeld, and second year Pats Daniel Fells and Jake Ballard. Fells spent much of last season dealing with injury, while Ballard spent the entire Season on the PUP. Yet when Fells was able to stay on the field, he was a phenomenal run blocker for the patriots. The 1.25 Million dollars that Fells is owed in base salary this year could be the reason for his release come august. Ballard caught 38 passes for the eventual super bowl champion Giants back in 2011, but shredded his knee up in the super bowl and was eventually claimed by the Patriots. After a year of re-hab, there are a lot of expectations on Ballard heading into training camp with Grownkowski's injury looming. But reports out of OTA's said that he looks sub-par. And last but not Least we have Zach Sudfeld. Sudfeld is a big, big man. At 6'7 and 250 pounds, Sudfeld exploded onto the scene his senior season by catching 45 passes for 598 yards and 8 touchdowns. Sudfeld also established himself as an above-average blocker his last year at Nevada, and presents an intriguing option to nullify the loss of Gronk.
-Prediction: Zach Sudfeld wins the roster spot