Normally, we would run our Patriots 53 man Patriots roster prediction long before today. However, with the strange offseason that resulted from the NFL Lockout, we're publishing our first official prediction just hours before the first preseason game.
QB (3): Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett
Thoughts: All three are pretty much stable with their roster status.
RB (4): BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, Kevin Faulk (PUP)
Thoughts: Sammy Morris is a tough cut here, but with the competition at other areas, the Patriots can't afford the roster spot on a fifth running back. Faulk starts on PUP, but could make his way back midseason.
WR (7): Wes Welker, Chad Ochocinco, Deion Branch, Taylor Price, Julian Edelman, Brandon Tate, Matt Slater
Thoughts: I have the Patriots keeping all six receivers in this situation. The Patriots need to keep some young talent with both Welker and Branch having their contracts expire after this year. LAST IN: Matt Slater makes the roster over Jonathan Wilhite/Sammy Morris.
TE(3): Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Lee Smith
Thoughts: Lee Smith has proven himself capable as a Alge Crumpler replacement thus far, and earns himself the roster spot.
T (4): Matt Light, Sebastian Vollmer, Nate Solder, Mark LeVoir
Thoughts: This position seems pretty stable. Nate Solder is a top back-up as a swing tackle. Mark LeVoir has proven capable to step in when needed.
G/C (4): Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen, Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell, Marcus Cannon (IR)
Thoughts: Marcus Cannon recovers on IR, ready to go for 2012. Mankins, Coppen, and Connolly are your starters with Wendell as your top back-up who can play any spot. Rich Ohrnberger and Chris Morris are tough cuts, but could earn their way onto the roster with a strong preseason.
DE/OLB (5): Jermaine Cunningham, Eric Moore, Rob Ninkovich, Mark Anderson, Andre Carter
Thoughts: The Patriots keep both Anderson and Carter, which will come as a surprise to some. The Patriots gave both players decent signing bonuses, and likely value them both.
DT/DE (6): Vince Wilfork, Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis, Mike Wright, Kyle Love, Myron Pryor, Ron Brace (PUP), Brandon Deaderick (PUP)
Thoughts: The Patriots get to stash a couple of extra players here, by placing both Ron Brace and Brandon Deaderick on the reserve/PUP list to start the season. Gerard Warren, Kade Weston, and Landon Cohen are all tough cuts.
LB (5): Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Gary Guyton, Dane Fletcher, Tracy White
Thoughts: This group stays stable from last year. There's a chance that a guy like Jeff Tarpinian or Josh Barrett unseat Tracy White for his spot.
CB (5): Devin McCourty, Leigh Bodden, Kyle Arrington,
Jonathan Wilhite, Ras-I Dowling, Darius Butler
Thoughts: LAST OUT - I had Jonathan Wilhite making the roster, but switched to Matt Slater due to his performance on special teams. That spot also could have gone to Sammy Morris. Wilhite or Butler will get that last CB spot.
FS (2): Brandon Meriweather, James Sanders
Thoughts: There have been some questions as to whether or not Patriots management have been happy with the performance of Brandon Meriweather. Either way, until another capable option presents itself, Meriweather is safe, with Sanders as the reliable backup.
SS (2): Pat Chung, Sergio Brown
Thoughts: Chung is the incumbent starter and a budding start at strong safety. Brown showed flashes as a rookie, and is signed through 2013.
K (1): Stephen Gostkowski
Thoughts: Chris Koepplin was just a camp leg.
P (1): Zoltan Mesko
Thoughts: In his 2nd year, Mesko has no competition.
LS (1): Matt Katula
Thoughts: Rob Ninkovich won't be snapping full-time.