The New England Patriots must trim their roster down to 53 players by 4:00 PM ET on Saturday, September 2nd. There are a lot of tough decisions for the team to make and some easy ones. Based upon the players that were active against the New York Giants in the preseason finale, we can create a solid roster projection for 2017.
Quarterbacks (3): Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett
Brady and Garoppolo were obvious locks and while Brissett’s spot shouldn’t have been in jeopardy, he made an exceptionally strong case for a roster spot against the Giants.
Running backs (5): James White, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee, Dion Lewis, Brandon Bolden
The Patriots want to keep Bolden on board due to his special teams ability, while the other four are roster locks. D.J. Foster is an extremely difficult decision for the coaches and will probably land with another team. He’s my next-man-up if a surprise player is placed on the injured reserve.
Wide receivers (4): Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Danny Amendola
Don’t worry, Slater is listed under special teams. The Patriots could swing a trade to address this position. Austin Carr is another tough cut, but the team might try to stash him on the practice squad. He’s another option to make the roster if there are multiple surprise IR candidates.
Tight ends/Fullbacks (3): Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, James Develin
I don’t think either Jacob Hollister or James O’Shaughnessy did enough to outright win a spot and the injuries on special teams point to another player possibly making the team. Both are practice squad options and could be promoted in a pinch.
Offensive linemen (8): Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming, Ted Karras, LaAdrian Waddle
Tony Garcia is an obvious omission and I think he’ll go to the injured reserve as he’s missed so much time this season. Conor McDermott is a practice squad candidate, as is Cole Croston and James Ferentz.
Defensive tackles (5): Malcom Brown, Alan Branch, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine, Adam Butler
No surprises here, but look for Woodrow Hamilton and Darius Kilgo as possible practice squad options.
Edge defenders (3): Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, Geneo Grissom
Grissom is my last player on the roster and he played very well against the Giants and didn’t leave the field. The injuries to McClellin and Langi and Ebner point to Grissom seeing a lot of value on special teams; he could be released when they regain their health, but there’s an easy, early-season role for Grissom right now.
Linebackers (7): Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, David Harris, Elandon Roberts, Harvey Langi, Shea McClellin, Marquis Flowers
We don’t know the status of their injuries, but I’m projecting both Langi and McClellin to the active roster with the hopes they’ll be ready to play in a couple weeks. Look for
Cornerbacks (5): Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Justin Coleman, Jonathan Jones
The injury to Cyrus Jones cleared up this roster battle. D.J. Killings and Kenny Moore are two cornerbacks the Patriots would like to have on the practice squad.
EDIT: Coleman has been traded to the Seattle Seahawks. I feel like a 14-seed just wrecked my March Madness bracket in the opening game of the tourney. Kenny Moore is now my favorite to make the team.
Safeties (4): Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards
Damarius Travis is a practice squad candidate, but the team is thin at the position, leading to Richards’ inclusion.
Specialists (3): Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona
Special teamers (3): Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner, Brandon King
The three players that change a lot are McClellin, Langi, and Ebner. The current scuttlebutt is that any or all of them might end up on the injured reserve and return in the middle of the season.
If one of them doesn’t make the active roster, I expect D.J. Foster to take their spot, followed by James O’Shaughnessy, Austin Carr, and Trevor Bates. Those four, plus Jacob Hollister, are my next five in line and if there are any other surprise moves (maybe Marquis Flowers doesn’t make the team) they could sneak on the team for a red shirt year.
I would list those five, in addition to Cole Croston, James Ferentz, Damarius Travis, Kenny Moore, and Woodrow Hamilton as the top options for the practice squad, but the Patriots will likely add players from other rosters, too.