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With the last preseason game in sight, a final Patriots 53-man roster projection

Despite any major news that breaks out following Thursday night’s preseason finale, here is my final 53-man roster projection.

NFL: Preseason-Carolina Panthers at New England Patriots Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

If you haven’t checked out the latest version of my 53 man roster projection from last Thursday, click here.

With preseason just about over and roster cutdown day a mere hours away, the New England 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 (2)

In: Tom Brady, Jarrett Stidham

Out: Brian Hoyer

Changes: Brian Hoyer (Out)

Tom Brady is your starting quarterback, so all is right in the world. The last two roster projections, I had Brian Hoyer making the team due to his veteran presence and ability to help both Brady and Jarrett Stidham, and sort of have that “bird’s eye” view towards it all. However, after the third pre-season game where he didn’t play at all while Stidham continued to improve week-to-week, the Patriots will carry two quarterbacks to allow room at another position on a deep and talented roster.

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 looked great in Thursday’s game against the Panthers and should carry a big load both in the run game and passing game. Damien Harris left the game early on Thursday night but just returned to practice, so expect him to be in the mix come week one on Sunday night. James White will be there and get his touches as I expect him to have a monster season. Rex Burkhead and Brandon Bolden will be a vital piece of the special teams groups that may see some touches in certain situations.

Wide Receivers (8)

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

Out: Braxton Berrios, Damoun Patterson, Ryan Davis

PUP: Cameron Meredith

Changes: Gunner Olszewski (in)

Every single roster projection I have released has had changes to the wide receiver position. Going into the Carolina game, a lot of people (including myself) felt that we were starting to get an idea of what this position would look like come cutdown day, especially with Gordon and Thomas both being activated prior to the game. However, last Thursday it shook up even more. With Braxton Berrios inactive, Gunner Olszewski returned punts and shined turning in some nice returns with the highlight of his night being a 29-yarder that was finished by trucking the punter.

I don’t think there’s any question regarding the names on that list that aren’t named Olszewski but in my opinion that’s the part where it does get interesting. He has been pretty solid returning punts this pre-season and with Julian 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 Olszewski can do that, I think they might save a spot for him and carry an extra receiver.

Tight Ends (1)

In: Matt LaCosse

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

Suspended: Benjamin Watson, Lance Kendricks

No changes here. Despite Ryan Izzo playing pretty well last week, I still think the Patriots go one tight end until Ben Watson returns after week four. 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 especially with James Develin being able to fill in at tight end from a blocking perspective.

Offensive Line (8)

In: Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Ted Karras, Hjalte Froholdt, Korey Cunningham, Jermaine Eluemunor.

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

NFI: Yodny Cajuste

IR: David Andrews

Changes: Jermaine Eluemunor (in), Korey Cunningham (in), David Andrews (out)

Ted Karras suddenly becomes the Patriots most important offensive lineman with the news of David Andrews potentially being sidelined for the season with blood clots in his lungs. Wynn, Thuney, Mason and Cannon are four solid, trustable linemen so I’m sure they can help Karras adjust to the bigger workload. However, Karras exceeded 60+ snaps just twice last season in Weeks 9 and 10 but with his contract expiring at the end of the year, Karras has the chance to really show himself this year.

With the news coming out yesterday that the Patriots traded for Korey Cunningham and Jermaine Eluemunor, it makes Dan Skipper and Cole Croston likely out of contention to make the 53-man roster. New England has a solid starting five and got significantly better as far as depth goes yesterday as Cunningham will likely be a swing tackle and Eluemunor can provide depth both at the tackle and guard position.

Defensive Line (4)

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

Out: Ufomba Kamalu, Nick Thurman, David Parry

Changes: Mike Pennel (out — cut)

Defensive Edge (4)

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

Out: Derek Rivers, Shilique Calhoun, Trent Harris

IR: Keionta Davis

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, after already beating out Mike Pennel, should make this team primarily for his ability to be strong against the run. Derek Rivers and now Shilique Calhoun possibly being out 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, Calvin Munson.

Out: Christian Sam, Terez Hall

IR: Brandon King

Changes: Brandon King (out — IR), Calvin Munson (in)

With Brandon King out for the year with a torn quad, Calvin Munson, who has really stood out this preseason, should make the team over Christian Sam. However, I can see it going either way. We know 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 England’s defense.

Cornerbacks (6)

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

Out: Duke Dawson, Ken Webster

IR: D’Angelo Ross

No changes here as Duke Dawson continues to play garbage time in the preseason; I think the Patriots will move on from 2018 second-round pick. Stephon Gilmore, meanwhile, will help lead one of the best secondaries in the league this season as 2019 second-round pick Joejuan Williams will look to add some depth at the position and bring size and speed, J.C. Jackson is said to be leaps and bounds better than he was last year.

Safeties (4)

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

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

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. I originally had Melifonwu on the team, but with two edge rushers going down Saturday night and Cowart emerging, I think the Patriots rather take an extra defensive lineman than an additional safety.

Specialists (4)

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

No real questions here. With Brandon King being a key special teamer and his season coming to an early end, that should put any speculation about Nate Ebner getting cut to rest. He can fill that void as far as special teams goes. Bailey has looked great, however, his hold on Gostkowski’s field goal miss last week was pretty bad, and it is definitely something to look at going forward with the Ryan Allen era being over.