With the first weekend of training camp in the books, I have decided to unveil my first Patriots 53-man roster projection. Feel free to praise, criticize, and everything in-between:
Quarterback (2): Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett
Thoughts: Tim Tebow just hasn’t looked very good at quarterback. And I don’t think his abilities at the other positions are better than what the Patriots already have here.
Running Back (5): Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Leon Washington, Brandon Bolden, LeGarrette Blount
Thoughts: I initially planned on having this group with just four, but I think that Ridley’s recent ball security issues have made the depth behind him (Bolden, Blount) more important. For now, they both stay.
Wide Receiver (5): Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Julian Edelman, Josh Boyce, Michael Jenkins
Thoughts: Kenbrell Thompkins and Kamar Aiken are tough cuts here, but I still think that they can sneak through to the practice squad. Michael Jenkins appears to be at most risk of losing a roster spot to one of those two, but I don’t think the Patriots want three of their five receivers to be rookies.
Tight End (3): Jake Ballard, Michael Hoomanawanui, Daniel Fells, Rob Gronkowski (PUP)
Thoughts: I originally had Zach Sudfield over Fells. However, Fells has had a strong camp thus far and has propelled himself back into that spot. However, if the Patriots feel that Sudfield has some developmental upside, I could see them going that direction.
Offensive Tackle (4): Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Zusevics, Will Svitek
Thoughts: Solder and Vollmer are firmly entrenched as the starters, but Svitek and Zusevics could be the best pair of reserve tackles the Patriots have had in some time.
Interior Offensive Line (5): Logan Mankins, Ryan Wendell, Marcus Cannon, Dan Connolly, Nick McDonald
Thoughts: Even if Marcus Cannon wins the right guard job, Dan Connolly still has a ton of value as an experienced reserve who can play all three interior line positions. Ditto for McDonald, who is versatile, but could be at risk if the Patriots keep only 8 linemen.
Defensive End (5): Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Justin Francis, Michael Buchanan, Jake Bequette
Thoughts: Marcus Bernard could make a push for a roster spot here. The big cut with this group is Cunningham. In his fourth year, his upside is limited. Michael Buchanan has shown some flashes in training camp, and wins the upside battle at this point. Jake Bequette sticks, but he is not a lock.
Defensive Tackle (4): Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Armond Armstead, Marcus Forston
Thoughts: This is an interesting spot. We’re not sure if Armond Armstead is going to be recovered from his infection. And aside from Wilfork, Kelly, and Forston, there aren’t many candidates to hold a roster spot. Speaking of Forston, expect him to emerge into a role player for the Patriots this year. His short area quickness could be valuable in sub-packages. If Cory Grissom can get healthy, perhaps he is someone else to compete for a roster spot. One final thought: Justin Francis’ ability to kick inside also gives the Patriots options here.
Linebacker (6): Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Dane Fletcher, Steve Beauharnais
Thoughts: Jamie Collins look like he’s ready to contribute immediately in certain packages for the Patriots, and has come as advertised in pass coverage. That could spell bad news for Dane Fletcher, who still sticks for me here. Also, I have Beauharnais making it. I believe he’s an upgrade over Niko Koutouvides.
Cornerback (5): Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington, Ras-I Dowling, Logan Ryan
Thoughts: The cornerback position seems to be relatively solidified. We still have yet to see if Dowling or Ryan can step into a bigger role. Perhaps the biggest personnel question is whether or not Marquice Cole can stick as a special teams ace.
Safety (5): Devin McCourty, Adrian Wilson, Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson, Duron Harmon
Thoughts: This position is relatively similar to the cornerback position, and the top three seems to be relatively solidified in McCourty, the elder Wilson, and Gregory. Also similar to the cornerback position, the question remains if Nate Ebner has enough upside to warrant a roster spot.
Specialists (4): Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko, Danny Aiken, Matt Slater
Thoughts: Don’t see anything changing here. Perhaps Ryan Allen can find a place on the practice squad for a year.