And then there were 53.
But as evidenced one Labor Day weekend ago – when the New England Patriots began one below the limit – it is a fluid 53.
How much turnover has there been from the final Saturday of August 2018 to the final Saturday of August 2019? For reasons ranging from retirement and release to trade and injury, a total of 22 players who were on New England’s initial active roster then are not on the initial active roster now.
Here’s a glance through what’s changed – or stayed the same – at each position for the Patriots.
- 2018: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer
- 2019: Tom Brady, Jarrett Stidham
Stidham finds himself the No. 2 QB on the Patriots’ depth chart following a preseason that included an AFC-leading 731 passing yards to go with four touchdowns. The rookie fourth-rounder by way of Baylor and Auburn unseats the 33-year-old incumbent in Hoyer.
- 2018: Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Jeremy Hill
- 2019: Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden
Hill is out. Harris is in. And Bolden is now back in after his 2018 release led to a season-long hiatus with the Miami Dolphins.
- 2018: James Develin
- 2019: James Develin
A member of the NFL’s International Player Pathway program will remain, but German fullback Jakob Johnson is slated to spend this year as the 11th man on New England’s 10-man practice squad.
- 2018: Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister, Ryan Izzo
- 2019: Ryan Izzo, Matt LaCosse
The lone tight ends to check into a game for the Patriots beyond the preseason in 2018 are now elsewhere. As for Izzo, the Florida State seventh-rounder from a year ago had been moved to injured reserve a day after making the 53 last August. He’s likely sticking this time with Ben Watson and Lance Kendricks serving four- and one-game suspensions, respectively.
- 2018: Phillip Dorsett, Chris Hogan, Cordarrelle Patterson, Matthew Slater
- 2019: Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Josh Gordon, N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, Matthew Slater
Edelman’s four-game ban left the Patriots with three true wideouts on the opening 53 of 2018. There’s as many rookies on the depth chart as the calendar flips to September this time around.
- 2018: Trent Brown, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Ted Karras, LaAdrian Waddle
- 2019: Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, Ted Karras, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Russell Bodine, Korey Cunningham, Jermaine Eluemunor
Wynn spent his rookie year on injured reserve. Brown and Waddle left via free agency this spring. And with Andrews’ season officially ending Saturday, there are four offensive linemen in the Patriots’ active fold now who were not at this time a year ago.
- 2018: Lawrence Guy, Malcom Brown, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler
- 2019: Lawrence Guy, Danny Shelton, Adam Butler, Byron Cowart
Four defensive tackles is still the magic number. But with a 2015 first-rounder departing for the New Orleans Saints this offseason, a 2019 fifth-rounder arrives out of Maryland.
- 2018: Trey Flowers, Adrian Clayborn, Deatrich Wise Jr., Derek Rivers, Keionta Davis, Geneo Grissom
- 2019: Michael Bennett, John Simon, Deatrich Wise Jr., Chase Winovich, Shilique Calhoun
New England’s defensive ends from 2018 are split between there and outside linebacker now. Clayborn is an Atlanta Falcon again. Rivers and Davis are on IR. Grissom is a free agent. And in the mix this Labor Day weekend are four who weren’t in the mix for the last one.
- 2018: Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Elandon Roberts, Nicholas Grigsby, Brandon King
- 2019: Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Elandon Roberts, Jamie Collins
Hightower, Van Noy, Bentley and Roberts remain from the first 53-man roster of 2018. Collins returns from the Cleveland Browns to accompany them. But two from last year’s opening group are not returning, with Grigsby waived in the middle of last season and King placed on injured reserve this preseason.
- 2018: Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, J.C. Jackson, Duke Dawson, Keion Crossen
- 2019: Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, J.C. Jackson, Joejuan Williams
The two cornerbacks New England drafted last April were traded away this Friday and Saturday. And the position is at a handful heading into Week 1.
- 2018: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner
- 2019: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner, Terrence Brooks, Obi Melifonwu
The Patriots’ four-man safety squadron still is one. But there’s room for six at this time. Brooks and Melifonwu could help in the kicking game in the aforementioned King’s absence. A role in the box could potentially be in the cards, too.
- 2018: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona
- 2019: Stephen Gostkowski, Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona
The right leg of Bailey brings a changing of the guard at punter for the first time since 2013. New England traded up to select the Stanford Cardinal in the fifth round this spring,