The New England Patriots' have been pretty busy during the last few days leading up to Saturday's roster cutdowns. Not only did the defending world champions reduce their active team from 90 to 53 players, they have also made multiple trades and placed some key contributors on injured reserve.
With the dust now somewhat settled, let's take an initial look at the Patriots' first 53-man roster – one that will certainly change quite a bit over the next few weeks and months:
Quarterback (2): Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo
After trading third-stringer Jacoby Brissett to the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday, the Patriots will head into the regular season with only two quarterbacks. However, the team has taken that approach in the past: Since Tom Brady returned from an ACL injury in 2009, New England carried three quarterbacks on its initial 53-man roster just twice (2011, 2016).
Running back (5): Mike Gillislee, James White, Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis, James Develin (FB)
No real surprises here. The Patriots' running backs (and fullback James Develin) were pretty much set in stone by the time the team acquired Mike Gillislee in late April. The only questions entering cutdown day were whether or not New England would keep D.J. Foster and/or Brandon Bolden. They elected to keep neither.
Wide receiver (6): Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell, Phillip Dorsett, Matthew Slater (ST)
Even without Julian Edelman, who will miss the season with a knee injury, the Patriots have a very formidable wide receiver group – one that received an influx of talent on Saturday, when New England acquired Phillip Dorsett as part of the Jacoby Brissett deal. Dorsett will join Brandin Cooks and Chris Hogan as the speedsters; with Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell best suited to attack the intermediate areas of the field.
Tight end (3): Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister
While Gronkowski and Allen were locks to make the team, the backup spots behind them were up for grabs. Undrafted rookie Jacob Hollister was able to win the four-man race and – at least for now – will have the honor of backing up one of the NFL's best tight end duos.
Offensive line (8): Nate Solder (OT), Joe Thuney (OG), David Andrews (OC), Shaq Mason (OT) Marcus Cannon (OT), Cameron Fleming (OT), LaAdrian Waddle (OT), Cole Croston (OG/OC)
The Patriots invested two of their four 2017 draft picks in offensive tackles. However, neither of them have been able to make the team due to injury (Antonio Garcia) and inconsistency (Conor McDermott). Instead, undrafted Cole Croston found his way onto the roster as one of the team's backups – beating out Ted Karras to join seven players who have all been on New England's roster last season as well.
Defensive line (8): Trey Flowers (DE), Malcom Brown (DT), Alan Branch (DT), Lawrence Guy (DT), Deatrich Wise Jr. (DE), Vincent Valentine (DT), Cassius Marsh (DE), Adam Butler (DE)
The Patriots have seen plenty of turnover along their defensive line since their last game. Only four of eight players have been on the roster for Super Bowl LI – the others have either been added via the draft (Deatrich Wise Jr.), through free agency (Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler) or via trade (Cassius Marsh). Overall, the group appears to have a lot of upside but lacks the experience of last year's.
Linebacker (7): Dont'a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin, David Harris, Elandon Roberts, Marquis Flowers, Harvey Langi
Prior to the final cutdowns, there was some speculation whether or not Shea McClellin could be placed on injured reserve. Such a move did not happen, though, as he is part of a deep initial linebacker corps. McClellin will join defensive signal caller Dont'a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Harvey Langi as players potentially lining up on the edge. Harris, Roberts and projected special teamer Flowers all have experience playing off the line of scrimmage.
Cornerback (5): Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Johnson Bademosi
The top of the cornerback depth chart was set in stone entering roster cutdowns: Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler and Eric Rowe were penciled in as the top three options. Behind the trio, however, there were some question marks – at least on paper, they have been answered: Jonathan Jones and Johnson Bademosi, both standout special teamers, will serve as the backups heading into the season.
Safety (6): Devin McCourty (FS), Patrick Chung (SS), Duron Harmon (FS), Nate Ebner (SS), Brandon King (SS), Jordan Richards (SS)
The Patriots will enter the 2017 season with the same group of safeties that has already been with the team last year. Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon will see the majority of defensive playing time while Ebner and King project to be core special teamers once again.
Kicker (1): Stephen Gostkowski
Punter (1): Ryan Allen
Long snapper (1): Joe Cardona
Throughout the offseason, the Patriots have never brought competition on board to challenge the incumbent three members of the kicking operation. The trio has been safe all summer long and given its success in the past, will continue to be throughout the year.
Practice squad (9)
D.J. Foster (RB), Cody Hollister (WR), Ted Karras (OG), James Ferentz (OC), Darius Kilgo (DT), Geneo Grissom (DE), Trevor Bates (LB), Damarius Travis (FS), David Jones (FS)
The Patriots have lost a league-high four players on waivers but were still able to add some intriguing depth options to the practice squad – most prominently D.J. Foster, Cody Hollister, Ted Karras and Damarius Travis, who have all four been productive during the preseason.