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Projecting the Patriots’ 53-man roster ahead of the third preseason game

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With cutdown day just nine days away, the Patriots are starting to finalize their week one roster.

NFL: Preseason-New England Patriots at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

If you haven’t checked out the first version of my 53 man roster projection, click here.

With pre-season almost over and roster cutdown day just over a week away, the Patriots have their hands full with trying to cut down a very talented roster. A lot of questions are still yet to be answered, but there’s definitely been some guys emerging as favorites to make the roster.

Quarterbacks (3)

In: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham

Out:

Tom Brady is your starting quarterback, so all is right in the world. This will be the first time, however, the Patriots carry two quarterbacks behind him on the active roster since their ‘Wolfpack’ days with Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. After a strong training camp from Stidham, though, I think that if the time came, the Patriots would in fact go with him despite him most likely being listed as the number three on the depth chart.

Running Backs (6)

In: Sony Michel, James White, Damien Harris, Rex Burkhead, James Develin (FB), Brandon Bolden

Out: Nick Brossette, Jakob Johnson

No changes here as this could be one of the deepest running back groups the Patriots have had in quite some time. Sony Michel looks healthy considering that he had a minor knee surgery this offseason and should be more active in the passing game this year. We saw our first of Damien Harris on Saturday night: he strung together some nice runs and contributed in the passing game catching four passes. James White will be there and get his touches, as well as Rex Burkhead when or if one of these guys goes down. Bolden and Burkhead will be a vital piece of the special teams groups too.

Wide Receivers (7)

In: Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas, N’Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, Matthew Slater (ST)

Out: Braxton Berrios, Maurice Harris, Damoun Patterson, Gunner Olszewski, Ryan Davis

PUP: Cameron Meredith

Changes: Josh Gordon (in), Demaryius Thomas (in)

With Josh Gordon now eligible to play week one and Demaryius Thomas coming off PUP a lot sooner than we thought, it definitely shook up the wide receiver depth chart. I don’t think there’s any question regarding the names on that list but in my opinion the part where it does get interesting is whether or not Braxton Berrios makes the team. He has been pretty solid returning punts this pre-season and with Edelman getting older, limiting him as much as possible as far as the return game goes should be imperative for the club. If the Patriots think Berrios can do that, I think they might save a spot for him and carry an extra receiver. He has been stringing together a lot of ‘good days’ but it may be tough with some crowd at the position.

Tight Ends (1)

In: Matt LaCosse

Out: Ryan Izzo, Stephen Anderson, Lance Kendricks, Eric Saubert, Andrew Beck

Suspended: Benjamin Watson

Changes: Ryan Izzo (out)

Ben Watson will obviously be there after he is done serving his four-game suspension that kicks in week one. Originally, I thought there’s no way Bill Belichick carried just one tight end to start but with the recent changes at receiver, it’s coming more and more possible the Patriots trend towards a more 10 personnel base package and only needing one tight end. With LaCosse and James Develin, being able to fill in at tight end from a blocking perspective, the Patriots very well could carry just one tight end until Watson returns.

Offensive Line (8)

In: Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Ted Karras, Dan Skipper, Hjalte Froholdt

Out: Cole Croston, James Ferentz, Tyler Gauthier, Martez Ivey, Cedrick Lang, Tyree St. Louis

NFI: Yodny Cajuste

No changes here from the last version of my roster projection. Wynn, Thuney, Andrews, Mason and Cannon are going to play when healthy. We got to see Wynn for the first time in over a year on Saturday, and he looked really solid and definitely like the best option this team has at left tackle. The Patriots have been plugging guys in and out of the lineup all pre-season but with Wynn now back, the Patriots most likely have found their starting line.

Defensive Line (5)

In: Adam Butler, Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Danny Shelton, Byron Cowart

Out: Ufomba Kamalu, Nick Thurman, David Parry

Changes: Danny Shelton (in), Byron Cowart (in)

Defensive Edge (4)

In: Michael Bennett, Chase Winovich, John Simon, Deatrich Wise Jr.

Out: Derek Rivers, Shilique Calhoun, Keionta Davis, Trent Harris

Changes: Derek Rivers (out)

Not much question here as New England heads into the year being very athletic at the edge spot. Michael Bennett has the tools to really excel in the Patriots defense — pairing him with Wise Jr, who continues to grow as he enters his third year in the league. Danny Shelton should make this team primarily for his ability to be strong against the run. Derek Rivers and now Shilique Calhoun possibly being out, that should pave the way for the emerging Byron Cowart to make the team as well.

Linebackers (6)

In: Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Elandon Roberts, Brandon King (ST)

Out: Calvin Munson, Christian Sam, Terez Hall

No changes here as this could be the best linebacking crew the Patriots have had in quite some time. Hightower, Van Noy and Collins are veteran leaders of that defense who fit exactly what the team wants to do. Add in Ja’Whaun Bentley, who had a promising rookie campaign before being sidelined by injury, and Elandon Roberts, who is strong against the run. This crew of linebackers has so much talent this season and is going to be a crucial piece to New Engalnd’s defense.

Cornerbacks (6)

In: Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Keion Crossen Joejuan Williams

Out: Duke Dawson, Ken Webster

Changes: Keion Crossen (in), Duke Dawson (out)

IR: D’Angelo Ross

Stephon Gilmore will help lead one of the best secondaries in the league this season. 2019 second-round pick Joejuan Williams will look to add some depth at the position as he brings some size and speed to be able to cover bigger receivers. J.C. Jackson is said to be leaps and bounds better than he was last year. Keion Crossen has been solid and while Duke Dawson, 2018’s second-round pick, continues to struggle — he looks to be the odd man out in a loaded cornerback crew.

Safeties (4)

In: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Terrence Brooks

Out: Nate Ebner , Obi Melifonwu, Malik Gant, A.J. Howard

Changes: Obi Melifonwu (out)

McCourty and Chung will help lead this veteran heavy safety group. Terrence Brooks saw some time with the starting defense after everyone thought he’d be brought on for special team purposes. Originally had Melifonwu on the team, but with two edge rushers going down Saturday night and Cowart emerging, I think the Patriots take an extra defensive lineman then safety.

Specialists (3)

In: Stephen Gostkowski (K), Jake Bailey (P), Joe Cardona (LS)

Out:

Changes: Ryan Allen (out)

The punter position is finally decided as fifth-round pick Jake Bailey edged out Super Bowl MVP-candidate Ryan Allen. I originally had Allen in hopes Bailey would be a candidate for the “Foxboro Flu” and spending a year on IR with Allen only locked up for this year. After seeing Bailey take most of the snaps as far as punting, holding and kickoffs went, we saw Allen’s release coming.