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Patriots veterans that could be pushed off the roster by younger players

Patriots veterans on the roster bubble that may be replaced by younger and cheaper players.

NFL: New England Patriots-OTA Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

With the Patriots’ preseason well under way, we finally get to see how the competition for roster spots unfold. Veteran players battle it out with younger players with something to prove to the league, with the younger players occasionally pushing a veteran player off the roster.

RB Mike Gillislee: The first preseason game saw a veteran and a rookie emerge as contributors from the RB position. Jeremy Hill and Ralph Webb each looked really good running the ball with 11/51/1 and 14/46/2 days. Webb proved that his 6th highest rushing output in SEC history was no fluke and showed solid burst to the edge on a well-blocked 8-yd TD run in the 4th quarter. Hill is more of a direct threat to Gillislee’s roster spot whereas Webb is more of a potential stash play for the future on the practice squad. Given that the roster has already 4 locks at the position (1st rounder Sony Michel, the recently re-signed Rex Burkhead, 3rd down back and Super Bowl hero James White, and core special teamer Brandon Bolden) seems like only one of Gillislee/Hill/Webb will ultimately make the 53-man roster after camp cuts. From a cap standpoint, Hill is cheaper by $850k and Gillislee has no dead money left on his contract.

TE Dwayne Allen: Another rookie who had a strong game was 7th rounder Ryan Izzo (not related to former Patriots ST ace Larry Izzo). On Webb’s first TD run, Izzo sealed off the edge very well and that left a wide open space for both RT Ulrick John and Webb to work with. John ultimately did not find anyone to block on the play given how well it was executed and Webb was never close to being touched on the play. On the 2-point conversion following Webb’s 2nd touchdown, the Patriots ran a similar play to the other side of the field. Izzo won the matchup on the edge decisively as he displaced his man off the edge and blocked him 6-7 yards downfield. Izzo had the reputation as a slow-footed TE with value as a blocker and occasional pass receiver in the draft and he did not disappoint in his NFL preseason debut. Ultimately I don’t think Allen is in too much danger of losing a roster spot, but if Izzo keeps playing well it will force the team to make a decision.

Also in the competition is 2nd year player Jacob Hollister. Hollister played sparingly his rookie year, catching four passes, but has the advantage of having a full year in the system. He’s more of a receiving TE and is a work in progress as a blocker. Overall, he’s putting in the extra work on the field along with side sessions with Tom Brady outside of practice. The Patriots’ offense will likely be leaning more on 12 (2 TE) than 11 (3 WR) personnel with Julian Edelman suspended for 4 games and a thin WR depth chart. Another reason to make the move also could be cap related if the two young guys show they’re capable of contributing as the 5th option in the offense and on special teams. Hollister and Izzo combine for barely over $1M in cap while Allen has a $5M cap charge with no dead money.

OT La’Adrian Waddle: The Patriots spent their top pick on the guy they think will be their LT solution for the long haul, but the current situation is Isaiah Wynn and Waddle battling for the 3rd OT spot. Waddle struggled at RT and was immediately replaced on the top OL unit by Wynn. Starting RT Marcus Cannon will be reportedly healthy enough to start in Week 1, so the battle between the two players will be over the 3rd OT spot. Wynn is a lock to make the roster, so Waddle’s spot could be determined by whether or not the team elects to keep 4 tackles. Assuming the change in the OT depth chart is permanent, that means Waddle could be battling with Ulrick John for the final OT spot unless the Patriots elect to carry 5 interior OL (Ted Karras and Cole Croston as backups to the starting trio of Joe Thuney, David Andrews, and Shaq Mason) and only 8 OL. Waddle comes with a very modest cap hit of $1.6M while John comes at $745k as the most expensive replacement player.

When final cuts come down after the final preseason game, there’s no telling who or who won’t make the roster. At the end, there will be 53 active players on the roster when all the final moves are made although some players will make the initial 53 just to be put on injured reserve or other lists if needed. Some veterans cut may ultimately see their way back onto the roster after Week 1 to avoid the guaranteed salary provision in the CBA or if injuries occur after the games start. With 3 preseason games to go the roster situation is always fluid and there are plenty of more plays for the coaching staff to evaluate when it’s time to make decisions on who stays or goes.