It’s been an interesting camp for the Patriots so far as a lot of players made names for themselves. Now, however, comes the tough part for NFL coaches and personnel, which is finalizing their 53-man roster for week one of the regular season. I know, a lot can change, especially with a month of practice and preseason games still ahead of them. However, I felt like now would be a good time to break down what the Patriots’ opening night roster may look like if all goes as planned.
Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham
The Patriots haven’t carried three quarterbacks on the active roster since their ‘Wolfpack’ days with Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett backing up Brady, but I don’t think there’s much question here. Hoyer will likely start as the backup and Stidham is too good for the team to take a chance that he clears waivers. The rookie has had a solid camp and has really shown off his solid mechanics while throwing a nice ball; I’m interested to see what he looks like in game action.
Running Backs (6)
Sony Michel, James White, Damien Harris, Rex Burkhead, James Develin, Brandon Bolden
No questions 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. He and Damien Harris both also will try to contribute in the passing game this year. James White will be there and get his touches, as well as Rex Burkhead when or if one of these guys goes down. Bolden will be a vital piece of the special teams group; the Patriots made it pretty clear that they missed that aspect of him last year when he left for a brief stint in Miami.
Wide Receivers (6)
Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, Jakobi Meyers, Matthew Slater (ST)
This is where it get pretty interesting, in my opinion. I don’t think there’s any question regarding the names on that list. Besides Edelman, they will all play and get equal opportunity to move up the depth chart. The part where it does get interesting is whether or not Braxton Berrios makes the team. With Edelman getting older, I’m sure the plan is to limit him as much as possible as far as punt returning goes, and if the Patriots think Berrios can do that, I think they might save a spot for him. After an inconsistent start to camp, he has been stringing together a lot of ‘good days’ but it may be tough with some crowd at the position.
Tight Ends (2)
Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo
Benjamin Watson will obviously be there after he is done serving his four-game suspension that kicks in week one. I think Ryan Izzo, who has gotten some first team reps, should squeeze his way in (solely for the first four weeks) for blocking purposes, but with LaCosse and James Develin being able to fill in over there from a blocking perspective, the Patriots very well could carry just one tight end until Watson returns.
Offensive Line (8)
Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Ted Karras, Dan Skipper, Hjalte Froholdt
We know that Wynn, Thuney, Andrews, Mason and Cannon are going to play when healthy. One area of question for the Patriots, however, is (once again) left tackle. With a 42-year-old quarterback, entering another year with a question at left tackle — Yodny Cajuste hasn’t practiced since his offseason quad surgery and Isaiah Wynn has yet to participate in contact drills — the Patriots have been plugging guys in and out of the lineup all camp. Obviously, Isaiah Wynn is the plan (at least for now) but with him out Dan Skipper saw some time with the ones. He wasn’t great. As far as some bubble guys go, Karras and Froholdt, in my opinion, will make the team with those last spots just because they have some flexibility and can play multiple positions.
Defensive Edge (5)
Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise Jr., Chase Winovich, John Simon, Derek Rivers
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. Rivers, who’s battled injuries so far throughout his early career, has been taking reps with the ones and appears to be having a solid training camp as well.
Defensive Line (3)
Adam Butler, Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel
I could see Belichick carrying three interior linemen, but also could see him carrying a fourth too. This is the position it can get interesting because with the talks of the Patriots possibly shifting to a 3-4 and Danny Shelton being very strong against the run in Super Bowl 53, he could be tough to cut. However, he may be the odd man out here, especially with the emergence and flexibility of Derek Rivers on the edge.
Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Elandon Roberts, Brandon King (ST)
This could be the best linebacking crew the Patriots have had in quite some years. 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 heavily-hitting Elandon Roberts, who is great against the run. The Patriots linebackers have so much talent this season and are going to be a crucial piece to their defense.
Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Duke Dawson, Joejuan Williams
Gilmore and company will help lead one of the best secondaries in the league this season. 2018 and 2019 second-round picks Duke Dawson and Joejuan Williams will look to add some depth at the position as Dawson was rated as one of the best slot corners in the draft a year ago. Williams, meanwhile, brings some size and speed to be able to cover bigger receivers. This cornerback crew could get interesting with undrafted D’Angelo Ross continuing to impress the staff, but he may be the odd man out in a loaded cornerback room.
Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Obi Melifonwu, Terrence Brooks
Although Chung returned on Tuesday wearing a red non-contact jersey, Melifonwu and Brooks both saw some time with the starting defense when he was out — which ups their chances of making the roster. I think Brooks will edge out Nate Ebner by his ability to both contribute on defense and special teams.
Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona
The punter position has been one to watch really since the draft. So far in training camp, Ryan Allen and Jake Bailey have been toe-to-toe. I give Allen the slight edge right now solely because he’s been here longer and has been incredible the last few seasons. However, the Patriots could risk losing Bailey (unless they put him on injured reserve) if they choose Allen — they could also free up some cap space if they let the incumbent go. With Allen signing a one-year deal this offseason and likely expecting big money, and the Patriots drafting Bailey, the Patriots could be in a win-win position with whoever they choose. It is definitely an interesting battle to watch, though.
Demaryius Thomas, Yodny Cajuste, Nate Ebner
Josh Gordon, Benjamin Watson