On Wednesday night, the Patriots concluded their 2012 preseason with a 6-3 loss to the New York Giants. After much careful thought and analyzation, I have put together my final 53-Man Roster Projections. They are as follows:
Quarterback (3): Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett
After watching both Mallett and Hoyer on display on Wednesday, there was nothing that they did that hurt their chances of making the final roster in my book. I think the only thing to watch for, (and hopefully we don't have think about this) is who comes if Brady needs to come out? My gut says Mallett at this point.
Running Back (5): Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead, Brandon Bolden, Jeff Demps
Most of this group got the night off on Wednesday, but those who did play (Bolden and Demps), proved that they belong. Bolden (15 carries, 59 yards) showed me that he's truly deserving of not only a roster spot, but of some reps during the season. Demps again continue to impress me with his kickoff returns, but his chances in the backfield were tainted by the awful third string offensive line. He's well deserving to make the final roster. As for Woodhead, who's status was very much up in the air, he's likely safe after being held out of Wednesday night's game.
Tough one for me to give Eric Kettani the cut, but I just don't think he's quite there yet. He's a sure thing for the practice squad, but his roster spot could likely be utilized elsewhere. The Patriots seem keen on having a fullback in situational spots, but that's something that I believe Brandon Bolden could do if necessary.
Wide Receiver (5): Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Deion Branch, Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater
No surprises here. All five guys did not suit up on Wednesday, which leads me to believe that Belichick didn't want to put them in harms way. As for the guys that were out there, I think Jesse Holley and Kerry Taylor will both be cut and seventh-round pick Jeremy Ebert join the practice squad.
Tight End (3): Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Daniel Fells
The newly extended Gronkowski and Hernandez will look to continue to wreak havoc on opposing defenses. Fells meanwhile makes sense because of his contract and his ability to fill the Alge Crumpler role. Visanthe Shiancoe, who signed a $400,000 signing bonus, is the tough cut for me. He's struggled to be healthy all summer, and I just don't see the Pats carrying four tight ends on their roster. I see versatile Alex Silvestro on the team's practice squad and UDFA Tyler Urban being outright cut.
Tackle (3): Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon
No changes for me here. Guys like Derek Dennis, Dustin Waldron and Darrion Weems actually hurt there chances of even making the team's practice squad. Absolutely terrible performance be these third stringers. Just despicable. I have Matt Kopa, who is currently battling an injured ankle, being moved to the practice squad as an emergency tackle. But for now, I think Cannon can hold down the fort in case Solder struggles or Vollmer gets hurt in game.
Interior Line (5): Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, Brian Waters, Ryan Wendell, Donald Thomas
UPDATE: Brian Waters is coming back, Nick McDonald is now getting the cut for me...
The obvious change is leaving off Dan Koppen. He didn't play particularly bad in the game against the Giants, but his action came late in the game, which leads me to believe that he's likely a goner by Friday. For Koppen, the writing has been on the wall. Dan Connolly's hefty contract, the versatility of Thomas and Wendell, and his abilities as only a center. If he were able to learn how to shift inside, I'm saying he makes it. But for now, it's goodbye for one of the best centers in Patriots history. The other glaring change is the addition of Thomas and the situational placing of Nick McDonald. If Brian Waters isn't given the roster exception, McDonald's in. If not, he'll be on the practice squad as an emergency versatile option. Jeremiah Warren is getting the cut for me.
More Picks After The Jump!
Defensive End (6): Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, Jermaine Cunningham, Trevor Scott, Jake Bequette, Justin Francis
I decided to cave and add Francis to my final 53-man roster. He came up with arguably the best play of the game on Wednesday with a beautiful of David Carr. Francis also makes it because of the struggles of Jake Bequette. Francis seems more ready to see NFL action than Bequette, who is still developing as a player. Jake however is still a lock because of where he was drafted, and Belichick's ability to leave him off the 46-man gameday roster
Defense Tackle (4): Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Ron Brace, Brandon Deaderick
No changes from me from this group. Wilfork and Love were given the night off, and Brace and Deaderick were in on a few defensive stops on Wednesday night. Seems likely that after Jonathan Fanene was released, this was the core four of interior defensive lineman.
Linebacker (6): Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont'a Hightower, Bobby Carpenter, Niko Koutouvides, Jeff Tarpinian
The decision ultimately was to flip the defensive end Francis for linebacker Mike Rivera. Leaving Rivera off was a tough decision for me, but all hope is not lost for me. He's likely going to make the team's practice squad and could be called upon when Brandon Spikes is inevitably injured. Koutouvides has been in on every Special Teams unit throughout the preseason and has seen significant action at linebacker. Tarpinian makes it because of his special teams play. I've got Tracy White, who's struggled to stay healthy all summer, as a good candidate for IR.
Cornerback (6): Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Ras-I Dowling, Sterling Moore, Alfonzo Dennard, Marquice Cole
Contrary to many others, I think the Patriots will go with six cornerbacks with the rookie Dennard sneaking in. Keep in mind, Dennard would have to go through waivers before being placed on the team's practice squad. If they don't put him on the final 53-man roster, they'd risk losing him to another team. Cole I think made it after his spectacular performance in the third preseason game against the Buccaneers. As explained below, I see Sterling Moore being used as both a slot corner as well as an emergency safety, similar to his role last season.
Safety (4): Pat Chung, Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner
After examining the cornerback breakdown, I think the Patriots will go with just four safeties with Sterling Moore coming in as a fifth emergency safety. Very tough cuts to make with the veterans James Ihedigbo and Sergio Brown getting the boot. Both are tremendous assets on special teams, and can either find employment elsewhere or wait by their phones when someone in the secondary goes down.
Specialsits (3): Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko, Danny Aiken
Danny Aiken seemed to silence his critics with some solid snaps to both Gostkowski and Mesko. Looks like he'll stick around. But keep an eye on former Patriot LS and free agent Lonie Paxton, if Aiken struggles again.