The Patriots and Tom Brady are on a fantastic streak at the top of the league's offensive ranks. New England has ranked in the top five offenses in each of the past five seasons. The Patriots have been a top ten team for over the past decade- including the Matt Cassel year- and they haven't been outside of the top ten on offense since 2003.
They have been good. They are expected to be good. No excuses.
Players always find a way to step up and produce. They always find a way to excel. They always find a way to win. The only variables that change in the offensive equation is which players will be the ones producing, excelling, and winning.
Wide receivers: Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, Danny Amendola, Matthew Slater
Running backs: LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden
Tight ends: Rob Gronkowski, Scott Chandler
The Patriots starting five on offense will include some mix of Edelman, LaFell, Gronkowski, a game plan running back (Blount on rushing downs and against weak defensive lines, Shane Vereen's replacement on third down and against good defensive lines), and a fifth skill player. It could be Amendola. It could be Chandler. It could be a fullback. That's just how New England divides the offensive snaps.
Edelman, LaFell, Gronkowski, and Blount have all earned their starting stripes. Amendola, Bolden, and Chandler all received new contracts so they're making this team in some capacity (even if Bolden and Amendola are relegated to special teams).
Oh, and Slater isn't going anywhere ever.
Wide receivers: Aaron Dobson, Brian Tyms, Josh Boyce, Brandon Gibson
Running backs: Jonas Gray, Tyler Gaffney, James White, Travaris Cadet, Dion Lewis
Tight ends: James Develin, Tim Wright, Michael Hoomanawanui
Full disclosure, I would place Develin's roster spot at a 75% confidence- I think the odds he makes the team are better than him not making the team. Everyone else? Coin flip.
Dobson and Tyms are fighting for the same roster spot. Boyce finished the year on the active roster and he always does a great job in practice. Gibson could surprise and be more consistent than any others and sneak in as the fourth receiver on the depth chart. Wright has a unique skill set, but he was unable to find his way on the field last season. Hooman is fighting an uphill battle for the roster spot all but given to Chandler.
The best four players out of the wide receivers and tight ends will make the team. If that means three wide receivers and one tight end make it, so be it. If it means that just one receiver and the three tight ends make the team? It is what it is.
The running back position is a much more obvious competition. Gray and Gaffney are playing for one spot, behind Blount. White, Cadet, and Lewis are fighting for one spot, alongside Bolden.
Remember that Gray was a healthy scratch in the Super Bowl. He's no lock. None of the players the Patriots have picked up off the street and stashed on the injured reserve have really paid off, so Gaffney isn't a lock either (although the coaches really like him).
White is a fourth round pick, but Boyce's relegation to the practice squad last season shows that pedigree is no guarantee. Cadet can catch, but he hasn't been asked to run or block. Lewis is a Mike Lombardi favorite, so he'll receive a very fair shake at making the team.
Wide receivers: Jonathan Krause, Chris Harper, Zach D'Orazio
Tight ends: A.J. Derby, Fred Davis
Krause, Harper, D'Orazio, and Derby are prime candidates to make the practice squad. You can almost feel that Harper will have a Buddy Farnham-esque pre-season.
Davis is a camp body who is looking to get his playing legs back. It's a very long shot that he beats out Wright- and as a result, Develin and Hooman- for one of the roster spots. Look for Davis to spend the season on the Patriots call list if someone gets injured.