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Patriots 53-man roster: Reviewing New England’s initial 2021 team after cutdown day

Related: 2021 NFL roster cuts tracker: Patriots news, rumors, releases, trades, instant analysis

Washington Football Team Vs. New England Patriots At Gillette Stadium Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

After a busy and chaotic Tuesday, the New England Patriots have officially trimmed their roster down to the league-mandated 53 players. In classic Patriots fashion, the team stole the headlines by releasing quarterback Cam Newton and handing the keys over to rookie Mac Jones. They also made a decision on where All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore will start the season.

With hundreds of players passing through waivers and trades to still work out, the Patriots’ current 53-man squad most likely will change before the team takes on the Miami Dolphins in Week 1. Every player that has been waived in the past several days will clear waivers Wednesday at noon. Teams can then start filling out their 16-man practice squads.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at New England’s current 53-man roster.

(Note: The order of players does not reflect a projected depth chart)

Quarterbacks

In (1): Mac Jones

Out (2): Cam Newton, Brian Hoyer

Reserve PUP (1): Jarrett Stidham

The bombshell of cutdown day came Tuesday morning as New England cut ties with veteran quarterback Cam Newton. After receiving first team reps throughout training camp and starting all three preseason games, the news certainly was a surprise. As Bill Belichick shows his faith in rookie quarterback Mac Jones, New England felt it was best not to have Newton serve as his backup.

As for Brian Hoyer, releasing the veteran gives the Patriots some initial roster flexibility. The veteran quarterback does not need to clear waivers, so he simply can be brought back after the team places a player on IR. It would be a surprise if he was not back with the team in some sort of capacity by Week 1.

Running Backs

In (6): Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, J.J. Taylor, James White, Brandon Bolden, Jakob Johnson

Out (0): N/A

After Sony Michel was shipped out to Los Angeles, it was clear that Rhamondre Stevenson and J.J. Taylor were penciled into the 53-man squad. The pair dominated the preseason and appear to have carved out roles in this year’s offense. Brandon Bolden, who has dealt with injuries throughout the offseason, appeared to be in a potential similar situation as Hoyer found himself in. Belichick tried a similar tactic with the running back before and ended up losing his services to Miami. Either way, he is sticking around in Foxborough for now.

Wide Receivers

In (5): Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, N’Keal Harry, Gunner Olszewski

Out (3): Kristian Wilkerson, Isaiah Zuber, Tre Nixon

The wide receiver room drew a lot of attention throughout the offseason. N’Keal Harry impressed during practices but was never able to translate that success to the game field before injuring his shoulder. Kristian Wilkerson appeared to be a serious candidate for a roster spot early in training camp but faded down the stretch. Harry’s injury looks like it will land him on the IR, which will open the door for the return of a Patriots veteran (perhaps Hoyer). Wilkerson will likely draw interest on the waiver wire, but would be a good addition to the practice squad if available. Rookie Tre Nixon is expected to land on the practice squad.

Tight Ends

In (3): Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Devin Asiasi

Out (1): Matt LaCosse

Injured Reserve: Dalton Keene, Troy Fumagalli

Despite a strong start to the summer, Matt LaCosse was never able to recover after getting laid out and hurt by Eagles defender Derek Barnett in joint practices. Devin Asiasi flashed his potential in the third preseason game and will fit in much better as the third tight end on the depth chart.

Offensive Line

In (9): Isaiah Wynn, Michael Onwenu, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Trent Brown, Ted Karras, Justin Herron, Yodny Cajuste, Yasir Durant

Out (4): Will Sherman, Korey Cunningham, James Ferentz, Alex Redmond

Injured Reserve: Marcus Martin

The offensive line could be the greatest strength of the Patriots’ roster. While the starting five is set in stone, Ted Karras will be a valuable interior backup option while Herron often operated as the team’s third tackle. Yodny Cajuste earned a spot after a strong final two weeks of the preseason. The 2019 third-round pick has barely played football since being drafted, but has serious potential.

Yasir Durant (6-foot-6, 330 pounds) was acquired late Tuesday night for a 2022 seventh-round draft pick. The 2020 undrafted free agent appeared in 11 games for Kansas City last season and projects as a versatile backup. Will Sherman, who was selected in the sixth round from Colorado, looks like a prime practice squad candidate.

Defensive Line

In (6): Lawrence Guy, Davon Godchaux, Deatrich Wise, Henry Anderson, Carl Davis, Christian Barmore

Out (4): Montravius Adams, Akeem Spence, Nick Thurman, Bill Murray

Reserve PUP: Byron Cowart

The Patriots completely remodeled their defensive line talent and depth this offseason. Keeping six bodies up front seems like a lot, but Carl Davis earned a spot with his strong play throughout camp. After playing deep into several preseason games, Henry Anderson didn't seem to have a spot locked down, but the veteran deserved a spot. Montravius Adams and Akeem Spence are quality players that could likely have interest on the waiver wire. Bill Murray looks like a strong practice squad candidate.

EDGE Defenders

In (4): Matt Judon, Kyle Van Noy, Chase Winovich, Ronnie Perkins

Out (1): Tashawn Bower

Chase Winovich was an intriguing name to watch as the Patriots slimmed down their roster. While the 2019 third-round pick has flashed as a pass-rusher, his overall fit on the defense has always been a question. While he could have potentially been used as a trade chip to add talent to a position of need, New England is rolling with the former Wolverine on their initial 53-man roster. Tashawn Bower is an ideal fit for a Patriots’ edge defender, as he uses his size and strength well in the run game. It would not be a surprise to seem him brought back on the practice squad.

Linebackers

In (5): Dont’a Hightower, Josh Uche, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Harvey Langi

Out (0): N/A

Reserve PUP: Terez Hall

Injured Reserve: Raekwon McMillan, Anfernee Jennings

Non-Football Injury List: Cameron McGrone

After an impressive summer, Harvey Langi earned himself a spot on the initial 53-man squad. Anfernee Jennings, who was a top-100 pick last offseason, found himself on the bottom of a crowded depth chart. As he was placed on the injured reserve before making the roster, his season is now over. As for the top three, Dont’a Hightower, Josh Uche, and Ja’Whaun Bentley all had extremely strong summers. New England is much better at the linebacker position than they were last year.

Cornerbacks

In (5): J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jalen Mills, Joejuan Williams, Shaun Wade

Out (4): Mike Jackson Sr., D’Angelo Ross, Dee Virgin, Myles Bryant

Reserve PUP: Stephon Gilmore

After being absent throughout the offseason, due to rehabbing from a quad injury and looking for a pay increase, Stephon Gilmore will now start the season on the PUP list. That will cost the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year the first six weeks of the season, as he will now make $7 million to play 11 games instead of 17. The news bode well for former second-round pick Joejuan Williams. Despite his on-and-off performances throughout the summer, the Patriots need the depth at outside cornerback.

Before the Newton release, the release of Myles Bryant was the most shocking move of the morning. Bryant impressed as a rookie last season and has been a versatile option in the Patriots’ secondary. He dealt with injuries in the final weeks of training camp and should be a candidate to return in some capacity.

D’Angelo Ross had an extremely impressive preseason game against the Giants, but it wasn't enough to make the roster. After acquiring Shaun Wade last week, Bill Belichick was highly complimentary of the rookie after Sunday’s preseason game. He earns one of the last roster spots as the Patriots look to unlock some of his potential at a position of need.

Safeties

In (3): Devin McCourty, Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips

Out (1): Adrian Colbert

Injured Reserve: Joshuah Bledsoe

No major surprises at the position. Adrian Colbert had a strong spring but didn't do enough throughout the summer to earn a spot. He did embrace being a Patriot and seems like a player who could be back in New England eventually.

Coverage Specialists

In (4): Matthew Slater, Justin Bethel, Brandon King, Cody Davis

Out (0): N/A

With the influx of depth on this years Patriots’ roster, it looked like it would be a challenge to sneak all four coverage specialists onto the initial 53-man roster. However, New England was able to make it work and keep all four guys around. It is nice to see Brandon King back, as the highly liked and respected veteran has missed the past two seasons.

Specialists

In (3): Quinn Nordin, Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona

Out (1): Nick Folk

Another semi-surprise from Wednesday. Quinn Nordin appeared to be fading in the dog days of camp after making a serious surge for a roster spot to begin the summer. However, the Patriots have apparently seen enough to hand him the starting kicking duties. The undrafted free agent kicker impressed with his strong leg and stole the show in a pair of practices inside Gillette Stadium, going 14-for-14. Nordin has big potential, but still struggles with consistency. As for Nick Folk, who missed several weeks throughout camp, the veteran has been extremely consistent since signing with New England in 2019. In his 24 games with the Patriots, Folk is 42-of-47 and hasn't missed inside 40-yards. Folk does not need to clear waivers, so could be brought back on the practice squad as insurance.