Before the team will open its campaign against the Miami Dolphins, however, it will have to trim its roster: while currently 80 players are under contract, only 53 of them will be able to survive roster cutdown day on September 5. The others will be exposed to the waiver wire and either join other teams, become candidates for the 16-man practice squad (regardless of their experience in the league), or enter the open market.
The cutdown deadline being only three days away, makes now a perfect time to analyze who is fighting for spots on the team this year. Of course, we took a close look at the roster all spring and summer long, so this is comparatively light reading. Nevertheless, here are 80 thoughts on the 80 players who are currently under contract in New England — some of them locks to make the team, others on their way to the proverbial chopping block.
(Note: the order within each position group is based not on a projected depth chart but rather the alphabet)
Brian Hoyer: Over the last few practices open to members of the media, Hoyer has seen regular reps as the number two at the quarterback position — giving the veteran a good shot to make the roster after being unable to do the same last year. Given the unique situation at the position, it would not be a surprise if New England kept three passers on its 53-man team.
Brian Lewerke: The undrafted rookie has seen only a handful of reps during team drills and was essentially used as a camp arm. He will get the axe in a few days but is a candidate to be brought back as additional depth via the practice squad — if the Patriots’ coaches feel confident in him after what was a rather inactive camp.
Cam Newton: Newton entered training camp in a three-man race for the starting quarterback job, but was able to distance himself from his competitors one week into its full-pads portion. He received the majority of reps ever since and even though head coach Bill Belichick will not admit it is the clear frontrunner to lead the Patriots’ offense into the 2020 season. The former league MVP will have to show that he can properly do that, but his progression over the last two weeks was encouraging.
Jarrett Stidham: After Tom Brady left New England, Stidham was originally seen as the top candidate to take over. Newton’s signing as well as a hip injury suffered in mid-August changed the outlook for the second-year man, who will likely share backup duties with Brian Hoyer this year. Nevertheless, Stidham remains a serious candidate to one day take over the QB1 job — that is if he can stay healthy and continue to improve his consistency when under center.
Rex Burkhead: With the Patriots’ running back depth getting tested early in camp, Burkhead saw increased action and reportedly proved himself a steady option as both a runner and a receiver out of the backfield. He projects to again be used as an all-around/change-of-pace back in his fourth season as a Patriot.
Damien Harris: While his absence from the first two practices this week is noteworthy after Harris also dealt with some minor injuries last summer before a rather quiet rookie campaign, the second-year man had a very good camp overall and should therefore see increased playing time after touching the football only four times all of last year. Harris might very well end up as the 1B as New England’s early-down back.
Jakob Johnson: The fullback competition never materialized after Danny Vitale decided to opt out of the 2020 season. Accordingly, second-year man Jakob Johnson appears to have very good odds of making the team and taking over the job that was previously held by James Develin.
Sony Michel: If Harris becomes the 1B as the Patriots’ early-down running back, Michel will be the 1A. Despite starting training camp on the physically unable to perform list (PUP), the former first-round draft pick looked good following his return and should again play a prominent role within New England’s offensive attack this year. Harris’ possible emergence might change his usage a bit, but that does not necessarily have to be a negative for a back with a comparatively long injury history.
Lamar Miller: Miller was just recently reactivated off the PUP list, so his outlook for the 2020 season remains a bit murky. Nevertheless, he still has a few days to prove his value and the team obviously is seeing something in him after a) signing him in the first place, and b) bringing him back to practice.
J.J. Taylor: Running backs coach Ivan Fears compared Taylor to ex-Patriot Dion Lewis earlier in camp — and for good reason: the undrafted rookie free agent has proven himself a shifty player who is also capable of helping out as a return man. That said, the depth ahead of him at the running back position makes it hard for him to make the team. He is a practice squad candidate if he can make it through waivers, though.
James White: White remains one of the best receiving backs in football and could play a prominent Christian McCaffrey-like role in a Cam Newton-led offense. He is of course a lock to make the roster and see considerable action as a pass catcher out of the backfield who has plenty of experience in the up-tempo and two-minute game.
Andre Baccellia: The Patriots brought Baccellia on board just a few days ago, and his odds of making the team or its practice squad are therefore rather low. That said, the coaching staff did give itself a chance to take a closer look at the rookie and assess whether or not he is worth retaining after eventually getting released.
Damiere Byrd: While Byrd’s abilities as a deep threat did not catch the eye during training camp so far, he projects to serve as a quality receiver from the X-position in the short and intermediate game. Furthermore, he offers some experience in the return game as well. The first-year Patriot may not be a lock to make the team, but his chances look good.
Julian Edelman: Edelman had an on-again/off-again camp as the team apparently tried to limit his exposure after an injury-filled 2019 season. Nevertheless, he is a lock to be on the team come Week 1 and to serve as the top receiving target for the Patriots’ new starting quarterback. Despite having turned 34 earlier this offseason, the MVP of Super Bowl 53 will play his usual big role as a safety blanket receiver.
N’Keal Harry: Harry’s training camp looked a lot like his rookie season: some ups, some downs, some time spent on the sidelines. The second-year wideout, who was drafted 32nd overall last April, is still a lock to make the roster and play a prominent role as a big-bodied X-receiver who could have considerable value in the red zone. He still needs to get more consistent, though.
Jakobi Meyers: Meyers missed some time earlier in camp due to a shoulder injury, and has therefore not been able to establish himself as a surefire option to make the team. His progression this summer may have been steady, but he did not make quite the same jump that other second-year players were able to make.
Gunner Olszewski: One of the Patriots’ standouts this summer, Olszewski made numerous highlight-reel catches while looking much improved as a wide receiver. His development this year should be enough to earn him a roster spot, and may also contribute to him seeing regular action on offense as well after being used primarily as a punt returner in 2019 — a role he is also projected to keep heading into 2020.
Devin Ross: Ross was one of the big surprises early in training camp but has cooled off a bit since. He might have been the team’s most consistent deep threat over the last two weeks, but that does not guarantee him a spot on the team — especially considering that he failed to see regular reps alongside projected starting quarterback Cam Newton. That said, he is a serious candidate to make the practice squad if indeed released and going unclaimed.
Mohamed Sanu: While he may not have had the most impressive camp, Sanu will likely make the Patriots’ 53-man roster based on his experience and potential in the system. It also helps that he saw quite a lot of action playing in the same groupings as Cam Newton. If the two veterans can develop a rapport and he can stay healthy, Sanu should be more productive in 2020 than he was in 2019.
Matthew Slater: Slater will turn 35 next week, but he is still among the best special teamers in football. Add this to his leadership as the Patriots’ most experienced member, and he can be seen as a lock to make the roster yet again — all while he will be voted team captain for a 10th straight year. Slater is a cornerstone of this team.
Jeff Thomas: Thomas’ athletic profile is intriguing, but he spent some time on the sidelines and has never truly stood out while actually on the practice fields. At this point in time, the practice squad seems to be his destination if he makes it through the waiver wire after his likely release.
Isaiah Zuber: Zuber is in the same boat as fellow undrafted rookie Jeff Thomas. He had some moments in camp but is buried on the depth chart and therefore appears to be a likely candidate to get released later this week. Just like Thomas, however, he too could be re-signed via the practice squad.
Devin Asiasi: With Matt LaCosse having opted out of the 2020 season, the road seems clear for Asiasi to take over the TE1 role this year. The third-round rookie looked the part in training camp as well: he reportedly moved well in his routes and was physical when used as a blocker. Once fully recovered from a minor ankle injury he suffered last week, Asiasi will serve as the Patriots’ top tight end.
Rashod Berry: Berry has experience as a tight end and outside linebacker, but does neither job well enough at this point in time to earn himself a spot on the roster. The practice squad might be the best place for him to further develop his skills.
Jake Burt: An undrafted rookie just like Berry, Burt is another tight end who likely will not make the 53-man roster this year — he simply has not shown enough to be kept over other players at the skill positions. That said, his frame and experience as a blocker could help him make the practice squad.
Paul Butler: Butler was brought aboard relatively late during the process. While he did catch a few passes in team drills, he likely has not done enough to be kept around. His comparatively advanced age — Butler is 27 — also hurts his chances to make the practice squad unless other pieces fall into place.
Ryan Izzo: If the Patriots decide to keep three tight ends on their active roster, Izzo is the premier candidate to earn that third spot. While not among the team’s standouts this summer, the third-year man has more in-game experience than any other player currently under contract at his position and has also had some nice moments as a blocker and a receiver.
Dalton Keene: Like Devin Asiasi, Keene is a lock to make the team simply based on his status as a third-round rookie. That said, his raw athletic skills and abilities as a potential fullback/H-back/move tight end make him an intriguing player. He is more of a project than Asiasi or Ryan Izzo, for example, but his first training camp showed his potential upside in New England’s system.
Paul Quessenberry: The Patriots brought Quessenberry aboard after he had spent the last four years with the United States Marines. His story is an impressive one, but his best chance of remaining in New England is via the practice squad: Quessenberry could develop his blocking skills there to offer depth behind fullback Jakob Johnson.
Yodny Cajuste: The former third-round draft pick spent his entire 2019 rookie season on the non-football injury list (NFI) and had a slow start to training camp while trying to get back into a football rhythm. Cajuste’s upside cannot be denied, but he is no starting-caliber tackle at this point in his development.
Korey Cunningham: Cunningham did have his moments in camp, but failed to build on the experience he gained as the Patriots’ fourth offensive tackle last year. That said, he could very well make the practice squad or even the active roster as a depth option.
Jermaine Eluemunor: With Marcus Cannon’s opt-out, the door was open for another offensive tackle to take over the starting spot at the right end of the line. Eluemunor, who is capable of playing both tackle and both guard spots emerged as the winner: he established himself as the top right tackle from the get-go and has never looked back.
Justin Herron: A sixth-round draft pick earlier this year, Herron did show some upside as a potential third/swing tackle — especially with Cajuste’s projection for the 2020 season anything but clear. Accordingly, the Patriots could very well keep him on their 53-man roster as additional depth at offensive tackle.
Isaiah Wynn: The biggest question when it comes to Isaiah Wynn is of course related to his health: he missed his entire rookie season with a torn Achilles tendon and also had to miss eight weeks last year after hurting his toe. He started as a reliable presence in camp, but was a no-show on both Monday and Tuesday — a situation worth watching given his injury history. If healthy, though, Wynn is the Patriots’ undisputed left tackle.
David Andrews: Andrews is in a similar situation as Isaiah Wynn. He looked good in his return to the field — he missed all of 2019 after blood clots were discovered in his lungs — and is well on his way to return to the field as the Patriots’ starting center again. That being said, he also was not spotted during the team’s practices on Monday and Tuesday. His absence is not expected to be a major deal, though, meaning that the leader of the New England offensive line should be back in his normal spot come Week 1.
Ben Braden: Braden does have experience and versatility, but he joined the Patriots relatively late in the process and will therefore likely not make the 53-man roster over some higher-upside players currently on the team. The 26-year-old could become a speed-dial emergency option or practice squad addition, though.
Hjalte Froholdt: Despite a shoulder injury costing him his entire 2019 rookie season, Froholdt appears to be well on his way to take over Ted Karras’ old job as a three-position backup along the interior offensive line. He was the next man up at center and guard in training camp, and will likely fill that role as well once the regular season gets kicked off.
Tyler Gauthier: Gauthier is in his second stint with the Patriots but it seems likely that it ends just like the first: with him getting released on roster cutdown day. He could come back via the practice squad but is not starting-caliber player at this time.
Shaq Mason: Compared to his own lofty standards, Mason had a down-year in 2019. Judging by his performance in training camp, however, he appears to be well on his way to rebound heading into his sixth season as a Patriot. He is obviously a lock to make the team, and to start at right guard. The main question will be how he adapts to a new tackle aligning on his outside shoulder.
Michael Onwenu: Onwenu’s raw talent cannot be denied, and it could be enough to earn him a spot on the roster as the second interior backup alongside Hjalte Froholdt. He is not as polished a player as Froholdt let alone the starters, but his upside appears to be significant.
Joe Thuney: While Thuney injured his hand last Thursday, he should be ready for the regular season start on September 13. At that point, he will continue playing his usual role as the Patriots’ starting left guard and one of the most reliable players in all of football — not just in terms of availability but also performance: Thuney is coming off the best season of his career, and he reportedly looked that part during training camp as well.
Beau Allen: With New England’s regular season opener not even two weeks away, Allen remains a no-show — a status that he already had when the team held its first full-team session on August 12. Unless he returns to practice before Saturday’s roster cutdowns, it would not be surprising to see the Patriots move the veteran to injured reserve at one point after the deadline with the intention of activating him again later during the regular season.
Michael Barnett: Barnett is another player who was added to the mix relatively late, and is therefore fighting an uphill battle to make the roster. If the undrafted rookie showed enough progress over the last week, however, he could become a practice squad candidate.
Adam Butler: The Patriots’ best interior pass rusher, Butler is a lock to make the team not just based on the fact that he received the second-round restricted free agency tender earlier this offseason: he also is a top member of the defensive tackle rotation and will continue to see prominent playing time in his fourth year in the league.
Byron Cowart: With Beau Allen’s status TBD, Cowart could be the big beneficiary. Primarily a run defender who has made some solid strides against the pass, according to head coach Bill Belichick, the second-year man should make the roster again this year — and maybe carve out a more prominent role after playing just 43 defensive snaps in 2019.
Lawrence Guy: Lawrence Guy is the Patriots’ most consistent interior lineman, and as such not just a lock to make the team but also a realistic candidate to receive a new contract at one point between now and next March: he is in the final year of his deal, but has shown no signs of slowing down at age 30. Training camp confirmed his status as a high-end starter.
Bill Murray: Allen’s absence could change the equation, but Murray appears to be destined for either the practice squad or unemployment. He has some tools to work with, but needs to become more consistent in applying his technique.
Nick Thurman: Despite having one year of practice squad experience under his belt, Thurman entered training camp with the same basic outlook as last summer: he had to prove that he can be anything more than a camp body. It doesn’t sound like he did.
Xavier Williams: Williams’ experience and size made him an intriguing addition to the defensive tackle mix when he was signed on August 22. That said, joining the team late is usually not a recipe to survive cutdowns. While Allen’s status could, once again, factor into the decision, Williams appears to be more out than in at the moment.
Deatrich Wise Jr: One of the standouts of this year’s training camp, Wise Jr. was near-unblockable at times as an interior penetrator. After playing more of a rotational role in the Patriots’ new-look 3-4-based defense last year, he could be in line for increased playing time entering the final year of his rookie contract.
Tashawn Bower: Bower started training camp on the sidelines and did not return until the sixth full-pad practice. He may have had some positive moments, but it will likely not be enough for him to make anything more than the practice squad.
Shilique Calhoun: Calhoun’s experience as both an edge defender and a special teamer — he played more than half of the Patriots’ kicking game snaps last year — could allow him to make the team yet again. He may not be the flashiest of front-seven defenders on New England’s roster, but he is a “do your job” guy: he sets a solid edge in the running game and hardly makes any egregious mistakes.
Derek Rivers: Coming off the best training camp since arriving in New England in 2017, Rivers has positioned himself well to make the team and finally carve out a regular role after playing just seven games over his first three years as a pro. He appears to have made some solid strides as a pass rusher who now knows how to harness his size and athleticism to challenge offensive linemen.
John Simon: Simon is as solid an outside linebacker as they come. He is a stout edge-setter and also capable of putting pressure on the opposing quarterback. While likely not an every-down defender like Kyle Van Noy or Trey Flowers, he has tremendous value as the most experienced member of the Patriots’ young linebacker group.
Chase Winovich: Winovich already had an impressive rookie season last year, and he appears to be well on his way to make the second-year jump and become an impact player outside of being used as a situational pass rusher. The 25-year-old carving out a considerable role within the Patriots’ front-seven, and becoming a tone-setter like Kyle Van Noy used to be, would not be a surprise.
Brandon Copeland: Copeland has the ability to play on and off the line, but it remains to be seen if his versatility is enough for him to make the team. The decision could therefore very well come down to him versus Derek Rivers versus Shilique Calhoun — with the latter two having more experience in New England’s system.
Terez Hall: Hall has had some moments as a run defender in camp, showing some solid physicality and a good nose for the ball. Did he do enough to make the team over its rookie off-the-ball linebackers, however? That may not be the case.
Anfernee Jennings: Jennings started training camp sidelined but he looked impressive upon returning to the field. The third-round rookie showed some solid positional versatility, and an ability to quickly adapt to the Patriots’ scheme. He is a lock to make the team due to his draft status, but he could also play a prominent role as a rotational outside/inside linebacker in 2020.
Josh Uche: Uche’s training camp experience is similar to Jennings’: he was used all over the formation despite being a rookie and appeared to look comfortable despite a lot being on his plate. With the Patriots’ linebacker corps experiencing some serious personnel turnover this offseason, the second-round draft pick projects to see regular playing time both on the edge and off the ball.
Ja’Whaun Bentley: With Dont’a Hightower having opted out of the 2020 season, Bentley took over his former role as the defense’s on-field signal caller and number one off-the-ball linebacker. The Patriots will need him to make some strides, and it appears as if he has done just that during training camp: he may not be Hightower, but his natural feel for the game should help him fill his former role without the drop-off being too big.
De’Jon Harris: The undrafted rookie had a solid start to the full-pads portion of camp, but he may be the odd man out based on the other players surrounding him: Bentley, Jennings and Uche are locks to fill the move/inside role, which means that the Patriots might decide to part ways with Harris this week with the hopes of re-signing him to the practice squad.
Cassh Maluia: Maluia entered the NFL projected to become a run-first defender, but he made some solid strides in coverage as well. When it comes to his outlook for the 2020 season, he could be used as an Elandon Roberts-like inside linebacker: primarily an early-down defender who also has value in the kicking game.
Justin Bethel: When Bethel arrived in New England midway through the 2019 regular season, he carved out a role as a core kick coverage player alongside Matthew Slater. However, he also made some strides as a cornerback this summer and could therefore fill an emergency role on top of his special teams job.
Myles Bryant: Bryant had a very good training camp for an undrafted rookie with no on-field offseason to build on. Given the quality ahead of him on the depth chart, however, it will be hard for the versatile 22-year-old to make the cut. He should be a prime practice squad candidate, but making it through the waiver wire projects to be a challenge.
Stephon Gilmore: In case you haven’t heard: Stephon Gilmore is amazing. The NFL’s best cornerback may have missed some time in camp to attend a personal matter, but he still looked like his usual shutdown self whenever he was on the field. He surrendered the occasional short throw, yes, but he routinely shut down whoever he went up against in one-on-ones and made the team’s quarterbacks and receivers earn every pass thrown his way. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year looked the part all summer.
J.C. Jackson: While Gilmore is the undisputed top cornerback on New England’s roster, Jackson is making a strong push for the number two role after already filling it on a rotational basis in both 2018 and 2019. He is a physical man-to-man defender with a knack for the football, who only continues to get better. The Patriots’ secondary is the deepest in the league, and the third-year man is a big reason why.
Michael Jackson Sr: The Patriots acquired Jackson via trade from the Detroit Lions in early August and he immediately stood out due to his physical play and competitive nature. An undisclosed injury kept him out of the first two practices this week, however, and could lead to the team sending him to injured reserve unless he returns to the field at one point between Thursday or Saturday.
Jonathan Jones: One of the best slot cornerbacks in the game, Jones is another lock to make the roster and see considerable action within New England’s defensive backfield this year. He may not have made the same headlines during camp as J.C. Jackson or Myles Bryant, but he very much remains an integral part of the Patriots’ secondary due to his coverage skills and ability to diagnose run plays.
Jason McCourty: The younger of the two McCourty twins, Jason appears to have recovered nicely from the groin injury that essentially ended his 2019 season. He is still a starting-caliber cornerback, and a player who should see regular action as a rotational second/third option in the mold of J.C. Jackson.
D’Angelo Ross: Ross had an impressive training camp last year before getting injured, but he has not quite been able to build on it in Year Two despite the occasional solid play. Nevertheless, the team will likely part ways with him — possibly in hopes of signing him to the practice squad.
Joejuan Williams: Williams may not have made the same impressive jump that other second-year players showed, but he is still on a solid progression and should find a role on the team this year not just because of his status as a former second-round draft pick. Don’t be surprised if he is used as a matchup-specific cornerback/safety hybrid that can cover tight ends and bigger wide receivers both inside and on the perimeter.
Terrence Brooks: Brooks may have had some ups and some downs in his first season with the Patriots in 2019, but he appears to be well on his way to earn the number two safety spot that was vacated when Patrick Chung opted out of the season. He took on a more active role both in terms of his usage and leadership, and should therefore make the team. He also can contribute on special teams.
Cody Davis: With Nate Ebner joining the New York Giants in free agency, the door was open for another player to take over the depth safety/core special teams role. That player should be Cody Davis, who has more experience on the defensive side of the ball than Ebner and also brings an impressive kicking game résumé to the table.
Kyle Dugger: The Patriots’ highest draft pick this year was off to an impressive start before a minor leg injury kept him out of practice. He returned in full capacity over the weekend, however, and is trying to build on an encouraging early camp: Dugger was consistently around the ball no matter if aligning deep or closer to the box, and could make an impact early in his career as a rotational safety alongside...
Devin McCourty: McCourty is going nowhere this year. He signed a new contract this offseason, is still among the league’s premier safeties despite having turned 33 last month, and is the leader of the defense both on and off the field. His value to the Patriots’ operation not just on defense is immense, and the veteran will therefore again play an active role not just within the team’s secondary but its locker room as well.
Adrian Phillips: Phillips’ Patriots career was off to a slow start, but his contract situation and ability to play multiple positions both on defense and special teams makes him a safe bet to be on the team come roster cutdown day. Together with Terrence Brooks, Kyle Dugger and Joejuan Williams he will help replace offseason departees Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon.
Jake Bailey: Coming off a solid rookie season that saw him take over not just as New England’s punter but also as its kickoff specialist, Bailey will resume this role heading into the 2020 season. If judged by his training camp performance, he could be in for another very good year: his ball placement and leg strength are apparent.
Joe Cardona: Ever since arriving in the fifth round of the 2015 draft, Cardona has been undisputed as the Patriots’ long snapper. He will continue to fill this role in his sixth year while being one of the most reliable players on the roster.
Nick Folk: After appearing in eight of the Patriots’ games last year, Folk was re-signed earlier in training camp to compete for the place kicker role. While his upside may be limited, he did look good and seems to be ahead in his competition with...
Justin Rohrwasser: The fifth-round rookie may have a stronger leg than Folk but his inconsistency is worrisome. Rohrwasser’s ups and downs could end up costing him a spot on the team unless he shows some drastic improvements over the course of this week.