I tried to predict how New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick would structure his roster. I should have known better. Here's a recap on what I got right, what I got wrong, and why.
Quarterbacks: Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo - Nailed it.
Running backs: LeGarrette Blount (susp), James White, Dion Lewis, Travaris Cadet, Brandon Bolden - I had Jonas Gray making the roster over Cadet for two reasons. One, Gray is the natural back-up to Blount, who is suspended for the opening week, and I thought Gray was a possible roster cut once Blount was reinstated. Two, Cadet hadn't participated in any preseason game. Instead, Alec gets his wish and Cadet will have an impact. That said, I believe Gray's release is more related to Dion Lewis' running ability than Cadet's.
Wide receivers: Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Chris Harper, Matthew Slater - I had both Brandon LaFell as an active body on the roster (he was unable to show his health and is on the Physically Unable to Perform list), and Reggie Wayne making the team. LaFell was a coin toss, but Wayne threw a wrench in the prediction by asking for a release. Chris Harper temporarily takes Wayne's spot as the top receiver from the preseason.
Tight ends: Rob Gronkowski, Scott Chandler, Michael Hoomanawanui, Michael Williams - No surprises here. Williams gets the nod over Asante Cleveland, who was more of a camp body while Gronkowski and Chandler sat out of games.
Tackles: Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming - No surprises here, either.
Interior: Bryan Stork, Tre Jackson, Shaq Mason, Ryan Wendell, Josh Kline, David Andrews - I thought Kline and Andrews would be fighting for the same roster spot, with Kline having the inside edge. Both players made it and Andrews looks to be a healthy scratch for the full season as he builds up his functional strength. The coaches didn't believe they could sneak him through to the practice squad.
Review: Cadet made the squad over Gray, Harper made the squad over Wayne, while LaFell going to the PUP opened the door for Andrews. Not too bad of a prediction.
Defensive tackle: Dominique Easley, Sealver Siliga, Malcom Brown, Alan Branch - No surprises here.
Edge defender: Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Trey Flowers, Geneo Grissom, Rufus Johnson, Eric Martin - Martin is the only surprise of this group. While he's listed on the roster as a linebacker because of his past as a 3-4 outside linebacker, he spent the fourth preseason game (his only game of action) as an edge defender. Martin makes the team due to a surprise cut at linebacker.
Linebacker: Dont'a Hightower, Jerod Mayo, Jamie Collins, Jonathan Freeney - The only surprise is that James Morris didn't make the team, but he's an ideal practice squad candidate. Morris led the defense in preseason snaps. Martin made the team over Morris.
Cornerback: Malcolm Butler, Tarell Brown, Bradley Fletcher, Logan Ryan - Robert McClain's release is a small surprise, but he definitely did not help himself in the preseason. While he started with a great game against the Packers, he made boneheaded late-tackle attempts and fell off in coverage.
Safety: Devin McCourty, Pat Chung, Jordan Richards, Duron Harmon, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner - The release of McClain opened up the window for six safeties, and particularly Nate Ebner. Wilson was coming off his best preseason and the coaches believed that Wilson's and Ebner's special teams prowess was more valuable than McClain's.
Review: Martin made the team over Morris and Ebner made the team over McClain. Not bad either!
Special Teams: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona - This prediction was like an extra point attempt.
Summary: I would like to pass off blame for Wayne asking for a release and for LaFell being placed on the PUP; I don't think the tea leaves pointed in either of those directions. I did have Harper and Andrews as top candidates for making the roster. The Cadet over Gray, Martin over Morris, and Ebner over McClain transactions aren't overly surprising and are rooted in special teams ability. I put too much value in Gray's backing up Blount during the suspension, and the coaching's staff love of Morris. I had Ebner on the bubble, so McClain's release opened that door.
All in all, this is still far from the final opening week roster. But the team really didn't make too many surprises when constructing their initial squad.