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#PostPulpit Mailbag: Will N’Keal Harry make the Patriots’ 53-man roster?

Related: #PostPulpit Mailbag: When will Mac Jones make his regular season debut?

Patriots Trainnign Camp Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

After spending the week in Philadelphia for a pair of joint practices with the Eagles, the New England Patriots are set to take the field for their second preseason game Thursday night.

Before the two kickoff, let’s jump into this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag:

@JMuskovitzMN But seriously - two questions. 1. What can we realistically get for Harry in a trade that would be decent? 2. Based on what you’ve seen so far, is our run defense going to not suck this year? Doesn’t need to be top 5, just don’t suck plz

The N’Keal Harry trade request still remains a major factor when projecting the Patriots Week 1 roster. While the 2019 first-round pick’s career has obviously not started as everyone has hoped, he is in the middle of the best summer of his career. Thursday’s preseason matchup against the Eagles will be a big step, as despite the strong start in training camp Harry posted just one reception on one target despite playing 36 snaps in the preseason opener.

It’s clear the Patriots will not cut Harry, so he will be dealt if they feel he does not deserve a spot on the final roster. Entering the offseason, his value wasn't much higher than a Saturday selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. Perhaps after his strong training camp performance, New England could net a fifth-round pick if they decide to go that route.

As for the run defense, they will be MUCH better this season. Last year’s decimated front seven was run through like Swiss cheese and they made sure to address that issue in the offseason. They added several big bodies up front to pair with Lawerence Guy (Davon Godchaux, Henry Anderson, Christian Barmore), while upgrading their linebacking unit as well (Matthew Judon, Kyle Van Noy, Dont’a Hightower).

@aqua_paris How is our second rd pick Barmore doing in camp?

Speaking of Barmore, the rookie defensive tackle has looked extremely well in training camp when present. The problem however, is that he hasn't been present often. Barmore has missed a handful of practices - as well as last Thursday’s preseason opener - with a blister on his foot/ankle.

When he has been present, he’s proven to be an issue for the Patriots offensive line. He is expected to make his preseason debut Thursday in his hometown of Philadelphia.

@yourboy2022 What is the RB situation gonna look like come week 1?

The Patriots are known for having a crowded and well-rounded running back room. Nothing will change in 2021. While Damien Harris will be the clear No. 1 and James White will handle his usual pass catching duties, the rest of the running back room is up for grabs.

Sony Michel is healthy for the first training camp of his career and has looked noticeably quicker on the practice fields. He also seems more comfortable as a pass catcher. Rookie Rhamondre Stevenson stole the show in his preseason debut against the Washington Football Team — rumbling for over 100 yards and two scores. J.J. Taylor also was impressive last Thursday, hauling in five passes for 31 yards. Veteran Brandon Bolden is also on the depth chart, who provides a valuable body on special teams and a do-it-all option when needed in the backfield.

@billshuts Can you see a Sony trade or even release before week 1? Seems to be the odd man out

With the crowded backfield, the Patriots will have tough decisions to make if they do not want to carry all six players on their roster. New England will have to decide if J.J. Taylor and Brandon Bolden’s versatility will earn them a roster spot, or if rookie Rhamondre Stevenson is ready to make an impact on the NFL roster. While his preseason performance seemed like he is, some comments by running back coach Ivan Fears make it seem the rookie has some ways to go, potentially leaving him as a “Foxboro Flu” candidate.

If the Patriots want to keep the trio of Taylor, Bolden, and Stevenson on the active roster, Michel could be a surprise body to see them part ways with. He currently projects as the early-down backup behind Damien Harris and played in that role against Washington. If the Patriots are comfortable with Stevenson in that role, Michel certainly could find himself on the bubble.

@simonalain How is Bourne going so far?

Kendrick Bourne has been as advertised so far for the Patriots. He’s not the fastest receiver, but is a strong route-runner, knows how to get open and is a reliable pass catcher. There were many instances throughout training camp where he caught everything thrown his way and looks like he’ll be a consistent chain-mover for the offense. He also consistently brings the energy with quarterback Cam Newton.

There was one occurrence in the joint practices with Philadelphia that Bourne was not on the same page as quarterback Mac Jones. Bourne ran the wrong route, continuing up the sideline as Jones expected him to break inside. Bourne then had an animated conversation with both offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and wide receivers coach Mick Lombardi. We have all heard the stories of how hard the offense is to learn for receivers - especially for those like Bourne who’s routes mainly consist of options - and lots of Bourne’s success will bank on his understanding of how things unfold.

@TuckerRossCon Do you think JC Jackson can rise to a number 1 corner. If Gilmore isn’t back, who do you think will be the second corner in line.

J.C. Jackson has played well throughout training camp and projects as the teams No. 1 cornerback if Stephon Gilmore remains sidelined. While the strong play is promising, it’s yet to be seen if Jackson is a true No. 1 corner on a NFL field, as visions of Stephon Diggs carving him up last December still come to memory. Granted, Diggs is one of the best receivers in the NFL, but the showing was not one Jackson will be mentioning in future contract negotiations. There will be a lot riding on the 25-year old if Gilmore is out for any part of the regular season, as the Patriots are quite thin at the outside cornerback position besides them.

@NHPatriots603 When does the Gilmore deal get done? #NHPats603 #GoPats

Speaking of Gilmore, my belief remains that he signs a two-year extension with the team before the regular season starts. He will then be on the field as soon as his quad injury allows him to be.

@its_benny_boy Does Gilmore get a deal, what about JC Jackson? If you could only have one do you pick JC or Gilly? I’d pick JC.

As I believe the Gilmore deal will get done, the attention then turns to J.C. Jackson - who will hit unrestricted free agency next offseason. If Gilmore is locked up for the 2022 season, I expect Jackson to go to the highest bidder in free agency, which will not be the Patriots.

@madrid_dav Does Nkeal Harry make the team?

Yes. Harry is still more valuable to this roster than a Saturday pick in next year’s draft. His skillset provides a strong contrast to their current wide receiver room.

@AxelBlazeMan Realistically what is your regular season record prediction for this year?

The Patriots should be much better this season. Their list of issues last year was long: new quarterback brought in with zero offseason, decimated defense, worst skill position players in the league, first-place schedule, and all in a Covid-restricted year. After revamping their skill positions with two new tight ends and wide receivers, completing remodeling their front seven, and with a more comfortable Cam Newton under center, this team should be good enough to make the playoffs. 11 or 12 wins is certainly in grasp.

@VicariouslyP Have you tried the BB PB&J sandwich? Please keep us informed on Nordin, along with the bubble players kick returning and special teams performances.

To start, that is the ONLY way one should make a PB&J sandwich. The perfect ratio of peanut butter to jelly. If you have not seen the video, take a few minutes out of your day to watch (seriously, what can't Belichick do?):

As for Nordin, he continues to impress with his plus-leg. After going 14-for-14 in two in-stadium practices, he was 3-for-3 in Thursday’s preseason opener, but did miss an extra point. With Nick Folk still sidelined, it will be all Nordin again Thursday against the Eagles.

@Patriots_karma Pick one: Nick Folk with limited range OR Quinn Nordin with growing pains

With Nordin’s strong offseason, he certainly has made a push for a roster spot — especially as Folk remains sidelined for an undisclosed reason. Folk has been the better, more consistent kicker, but Nordin’s leg is hard to ignore. The fact that New England hasn't cut or placed Folk on the injured reserve yet makes me believe he is still the leading candidate for the job.

If Folk is not ready for the regular season, perhaps both kickers make the initial 53-man roster before shifting Folk to the injured reserve. The veteran was given $1.225 million guaranteed this offseason, so it would be a surprising cut from a financial viewpoint.

@cinjeopardy Of bourne, agholor and myers, who has the best fantasy season?

Patriot players are hard to trust in fantasy football and it should be no different this season. The ball will certainly be spread out throughout their wide receivers and tight ends this season, limiting the value of their pass catchers from a fantasy standpoint. If I had to pick a receiver, I would go with Meyers.

@diabloshadow If Cam unfortunately doesn’t have it anymore even with a full camp and removed from covid, would BB put Mac-10 in even though he’s a rook and historically he doesn’t do that.

While the belief remains that Cam Newton will start Week 1, Bill Belichick will do whatever he believes will help his team win games. If that is Mac Jones, expect Mac Jones under center.

@HebHammer94 Yes or no: Patriots?

Easy, yes.

@JMuskovitzMN Do you like the Patriots?

Even easier, yes.

That’s all for this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag. If you have questions you’d liked to be answered next week, submit them on Twitter using #PostPulpit! Make sure to be following @iambrianhines and @PatsPulpit as well!