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Patriots 53-man roster projection: Which players will survive cutdown day?

Related: Patriots vs. Raiders: New England’s starters struggle in 23-6 preseason defeat

NFL: New England Patriots at Las Vegas Raiders Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With the New England Patriots’ preseason slate in the books after a 23-6 defeat at the hands of the Las Vegas Raiders on Friday night, attention now turns to the final roster cutdown deadline on Tuesday afternoon. Only 53 of the current 80 players will be able to make the opening-day squad.

So, who will it be? Based on several training camp practices and three exhibition contests, here is our best-guess estimation.


Roster (3): Mac Jones, Brian Hoyer, Bailey Zappe

Unsurprisingly, Mac Jones is once again your starter with wise veteran Brian Hoyer serving as his mentor and top backup.

One unexpected storyline from this position group is how well fourth-rounder Bailey Zappe performed when given opportunities. Despite a record-shattering senior season at Western Kentucky, Zappe’s stock dropped largely due to inconsistent accuracy and decision-making, as well as a below-average arm.

This preseason, Zappe’s ball placement and awareness have impressed while his ability to create off-schedule and stay poised under pressure have come as a pleasant surprise.

Expect Zappe to be the team’s top backup next season.

Running back

Roster (4): Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, Pierre Strong Jr., Ty Montgomery

Practice squad (1): Kevin Harris, J.J. Taylor

Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson remain atop the depth chart as one of the league’s most dynamic one-two punches, but the team’s every-down-back experiment with players having designated drives will be something to monitor during the regular season.

Ty Montgomery will likely end up on short-term injured reserve after suffering an ankle injury in the final preseason game. To keep Montgomery on the initial 53-man roster and avoid ending season, Kevin Harris may start the season on the practice squad.

J.J. Taylor has been a preseason standout since signing with the team as an undrafted free agent in 2020, but he’s found himself on the bottom due to his diminutive stature and veteran talent ahead of him. Given Montgomery’s injury, Taylor may have his best chance yet at becoming a contributor this season, though I believe he will start on the practice squad until someone is placed on injured reserve.

Fifth-rounder Kevin Harris was the primary young runner in the preseason and saw two screen targets in addition to running a slant from empty, but fourth-rounder Pierre Strong Jr. has seen more receiving snaps and been a returner, blocker, and coverage player on special teams.

I don’t believe both will make the roster, with Kevin Harris possibly starting his career on the practice squad due to a lack of special teams involvement.

Wide receiver

Roster (6): Jakobi Meyers, DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Tyquan Thornton, Lil’Jordan Humphrey

Practice squad (2): Kristian Wilkerson, Tre Nixon

Cut (1): Josh Hammond

Jakobi Meyers continues to be the straw that stirs the drink for the Patriots offense, catching nearly twice as many training camp targets from Mac Jones as the next closest player.

DeVante Parker will bring size, elite contested catch ability, and some downfield ferocity to the offense as the team’s primary X-receiver. This shift should free Nelson Agholor to play off the ball and in the slot more often, which should better suit his electric, if not overpowering skill-set.

Kendrick Bourne has had a disturbingly quiet training camp, but hopefully that’s simply a blip and he will live up to expectations of a Year 2 jump in the Patriots’ system.

Tyquan Thornton was earning first-team reps in training camp and preseason before suffering a collarbone injury, but should be back mid-season without many limitations.

Lil’Jordan Humphrey was a revelation in the preseason, catching everything thrown his way and bringing toughness as a big slot. Humphrey initially seemed like a bubble guy due to depth at wide receiver, Thornton’s injury and Devin Asiasi’s disappointing start may have opened the door to a spot on the final-53.

Tre Nixon has had some flashes this preseason, but he’s also struggled with drops and his lack of effort on Bailey Zappe’s second preseason interception sealed the turnover. Kristian Wilkerson looked good catching passes from Zappe in Week 1 of the preseason, but his injury during a chippy Carolina Panthers joint practice paused his development.

Tight end

Roster (2): Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith

Practice squad (2): Devin Asiasi, Matt Sokol

Cut (1): Jalen Wydermyer

Devin Asiasi hasn’t done anything to set himself apart in year three despite a frustrating amount of talent. Asiasi’s special teams contributions and a lack of proven experience behind starters Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith will likely keep stick around.

Matt Sokol has quietly done his job and, from my perspective, his play has earned him a spot on the practice squad.

Offensive line

Roster (8): Trent Brown, Cole Strange, David Andrews, Michael Onwneu, Isaiah Wynn, Yodny Cajuste, Justin Herron, Kody Russey

Practice squad (6): Arlington Hambright, William Sherman, James Ferentz, Chasen Hines, Bill Murray, Yasir Durant

Cut (1): Drew Desjarlais

Injury designation (1): Andrew Stueber

The Patriots’ starting five is currently locked in, but there are a lot of question marks behind them.

New England has an unusual amount of young developmental talent in swing tackles Yodny Cajuste and Justin Herron, versatile veterans Arlington Hambright and Will Sherman, and experienced UDFA center Kody Russey. The team also drafted two intriguing prospects in right guard Chasen Hines and offensive tackle Andrew Stueber, who was placed on the Non-Football Injury list.

With injury a constant factor for starting tackle Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn, as well as Wynn’s future potentially up in the air, doubling down with homegrown talents in Cajuste and Herron could be wise. Yasir Durant could also stick around on the practice squad, but the former two players seem to be ahead of him on the depth chart.

Kody Russey may be strictly a center at this point in his career, but he’s flashed exceptional football IQ and I question whether he’d make it to the practice squad. For that reason, he makes the team in this projection.

James Ferentz will likely stick around as a veteran who can play anywhere inside and be moved between the active roster and practice squad when necessary.

Bill Murray had a solid start to preseason as a converted defensive tackle, showing impressive athleticism. Think the team would like to keep developing him.

Defensive line

Roster (6): Davon Godchaux, Christian Barmore, Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise Jr., Carl Davis Jr., Sam Roberts

Practice squad (1): LyBryan Ray

Cut (2): Henry Anderson, Jeremiah Pharms Jr.

Suspension (1): Daniel Ekuale

Davon Godchaux is having a breakout start to the season after coach Bill Belichick called him one of the best defensive linemen in football. Though Godchaux is a solid nose tackle, I think the team would benefit from retaining Carl Davis Jr., who has also been excellent, so Godchaux can play different positions on the line.

Sixth-round pick Sam Roberts has shown the disruptiveness he flashed at the Division II level and could stick around as a developmental depth piece, at least until emerging penetrator Daniel Ekuale is back from suspension.

UDFA LaBryan Ray and veteran Henry Anderson are similar defensive end-types who excel against the run but lack explosiveness as pass rushers. Ray’s youth and upside give him the edge.


Roster (6): Matthew Judon, Anfernee Jennings, Josh Uche, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Raekwon McMillan, Mack Wilson Sr.

Practice squad (3): Harvey Langi, Jahlani Tavai, Cameron McGrone

Cut (1) Nate Wieland

Injury designation (1): Ronnie Perkins

The Patriots’ speedy additions at linebacker already seem to be paying off, with Raekwon McMillan and Mack Wilson Sr. making plays during the preseason that last year’s group simply couldn’t. McMillan seems to be the top option on run downs and as a pass rusher, while Wilson has seen a larger role in coverage.

Jahlani Tavai seems to be a team favorite and its hard not to fall in love with his effort on the field, but his issues in coverage are a significant liability and he isn’t exceptional in any area. Harvey Langi is another well-liked, but physically limited depth piece at inside linebacker, though he doesn’t offer the same special teams upside as Tavai.

Cameron McGrone didn’t make much of an impact in the preseason after being a hot name before training camp, but it’s possible he still needs time to catch up to the pro game.

Anfernee Jennings has emerged as the starting outside linebacker opposite Matthew Judon, with Josh Uche likely coming in on passing downs.


Roster (6): Jalen Mills, Jonathan Jones, Myles Bryant, Marcus Jones, Jack Jones, Shaun Wade

Practice squad (1): Terrance Mitchell

Injury designation (1): Joejuan Williams

Jalen Mills seems to have emerged as the Patriots’ top corner with Jonathan Jones moving outside due to a lack of proven depth at the position.

Career backup Myles Bryant has seized the top slot corner spot in the midst of this secondary shuffling, but third-round pick Marcus Jones’ athleticism and ball skills could heat things up down the road. At the very least, Jones should be involved as the team’s top returner.

Fourth-rounder Jack Jones’ aggressive play-style has flashed multiple times this preseason, and it’s possible he could also earn a role as a rookie.

Shaun Wade has been a quality press corner this preseason and could be the answer to the defense’s lack of size at cornerback.

Terrance Mitchell has been a solid veteran addition, making a highlight-reel forced fumble when he peanut-punched a ball in the first preseason game. He could be in the mix during the season when the team plays larger receiving corps.


Roster (5): Devin McCourty, Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips, Jabrill Peppers, Joshuah Bledsoe

Cut (1): Brad Hawkins

The Patriots’ deepest position group is also one of its easiest to project.

Devin McCourty, Kyle Dugger, and Adrian Phillips are a ferocious three-headed monster in the secondary, while Jabrill Peppers’ signing adds even more versatility and explosiveness to the bunch.

Joshua Bledsoe has emerged as an intriguing young player after missing most of his first season to injury. His ability to play deep, down in the box, and out in the slot make him a valuable backup who could see a larger role down the line.

Myles Bryant appears to be the top backup at deep safety behind McCourty and Dugger, but Bledsoe could compete for the role as the season goes on.

Special teams

Roster (7): Nick Folk, Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona, Matthew Slater, Justin Bethel, Brenden Schooler, DaMarcus Mitchell

This may be Matthew Slater’s last season in the NFL, so here’s hoping it’s his best yet.

Cody Davis is a tough cut, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Belichick proves me wrong here, but undrafted free agent safety Brenden Schooler’s emergence has likely earned him a roster spot. He has played on nearly every special teams unit and has run with the starters.

Fellow UDFA and outside linebacker DaMarcus Mitchell has also seen time with the top dogs on special teams, earned after making his presence felt in a big way on multiple units. Mitchell has also shown twitch and upside as a rusher, though he is still raw and in need of development.