Later tonight, the New England Patriots will play in Philadelphia for their preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. We made our first projection just after the start of camp, and with things bound to change following game action, I thought now would be a good time to take another crack at how I believe the roster will turn out. Here it goes:
Quarterback (3): Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett, Tim Tebow
Thoughts: I know... I know... Tim Tebow is sticking on my latest roster projection. He's shown some improvement throughout camp, and I do think the Patriots brought him in with the intention of keeping him on the 53. I may feel differently about Tebow by this time next week, but for now, I have him sticking.
Running Back (4): Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Leon Washington, LeGarrette Blount
Thoughts: One change was made here, as I now have the Patriots cutting Brandon Bolden. Again, this is an opinion that could change this time next week. But if New England doesn't seem long term value in Bolden, it could opt to keep just four backs and stick with the more experienced runner in Blount.
Wide Receiver (5): Danny Amendola, Josh Boyce, Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson, Julian Edelman
Thoughts: At this point, I feel rather silly for even having Michael Jenkins over Kenbrell Thompkins on my initial projection. This changes here. Also, veteran Julian Edelman, after returning from injury, is down to #5 on the depth chart.
Tight End (3): Zach Sudfeld, Michael Hoomanawanui, Daniel Fells, Rob Gronkowski (Reserve/PUP)
Thoughts: Like Thompkins, I feel silly for not having Sudfeld on my initial projection. Nonetheless, after dazzling for two weeks in camp, I have him at number one on my depth chart, with the "surprise cut" being Jake Ballard. The Patriots can get away with Sudfeld, Hoomanawanui, and Fells until Gronkowski gets back. And once he does come back, those three complement his skillset better than Ballard, who is in many ways a poor man's Gronk (who like Gronkowski, isn't fully healthy).
Offensive Tackle (4): Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Zusevics, Will Svitek
Thoughts: This position stays the same. The versatility that both Zusevics and Svitek have shown by sliding inside to guard has increased their value. Zusevics has some developmental upside. I'd be surprised if either of these guys are let go.
Interior Offensive Line (5): Logan Mankins, Ryan Wendell, Marcus Cannon, Dan Connolly, Tyronne Green
Thoughts: Nick McDonald was on my initial projection, and has been cut since. Cannon and Connolly are injured, but I still think both will be back at some point. The wildcard here is Tyronne Green. He's been solid in camp when healthy, and with the injury issues the Patriots have had, it wouldn't surprise me if he stuck considering his starting experience.
Defensive End (5): Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Justin Francis, Marcus Bernard, Michael Buchanan
Thoughts: Jake Bequette is out and Marcus Bernard is in. At first glance, it would be surprising to see the Patriots give up on a third round draft pick (Bequette) after just one year. But I feel that Buchanan has just as much upside, while Bernard is ready to contribute now. If the Patriots kept six edge rushers, it also wouldn't surprise me to see Jermaine Cunningham squeeze in ahead of Bequette.
Defensive Tackle (4): Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Marcus Forston, Cory Grissom, Armond Armstead (Reserve/NFI)
Thoughts: There's a new name here: Cory Grissom. If Armond Armstead starts the year on the NFI list, the team will lack depth at the defensive tackle position. Grissom has emerged quickly as an undrafted free agent, even seeing some time next to Vince Wilfork with the starters yesterday.
Linebacker (6): Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Dane Fletcher, Steve Beauharnais
Thoughts: One of just a few positions with no changes on my projection. Dane Fletcher and Steve Beauharnais both provide value on special teams, which could put a player such as Niko Koutouvides on the chopping block.
Cornerback (5): Aqib Talib, Kyle Arrington, Alfonzo Dennard, Logan Ryan, Marquice Cole
Thoughts: Ras-I Dowling is the big cut here, but it shouldn't come as a huge surprise. If he can't stay on the field, why not give a roster spot to a player such as Marquice Cole who might not flash on the base defense, but will be a key contributor on special teams?
Safety (5): Devin McCourty, Adrian Wilson, Steve Gregory, Duron Harmon, Tavon Wilson
Thoughts: Although I highly doubt Tavon WIlson gets cut after just a season, he has slid down to the bottom of the depth chart. With a lot of young bodies at the position, I still don't have room for Nate Ebner here.
Specialists (4): Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko, Danny Aiken, Matthew Slater
Thoughts: No changes here, but the punter battle between Mesko and rookie Ryan Allen has been closer than expected.