Phil Perry's Patriots Roster Projection 4.0
Phil Perry's Patriots Roster Projection 4.0
FOXBORO -- Things have changed since the last time we did one of these.
The Patriots played their second preseason game, and certain players made cases for roster spots with their performances. The injury picture has also cleared up, and it's become apparent that there will be at least a couple of roster spots open with both Dion Lewis and Sebastian Vollmer unavailable to start the season.
How might the Patriots build their 53-man roster as a result? Here's our best guess . . .
QUARTERBACK (2): JIMMY GAROPPOLO, JACOBY BRISSETT
Nothing to see here. Jacoby Brissett (left) has, in my eyes, made strides over the last few weeks of practice, and it seems as though the team is comfortable with using him as their backup to start the season. Don't expect any veteran additions at this position between now and Week 1.
RUNNING BACK (4): LeGARRETTE BLOUNT, JAMES WHITE, BRANDON BOLDEN, DONALD BROWN
The news that Dion Lewis will need a second surgery and begin the season on PUP shakes things up a bit at this spot. Donald Brown (left, taking handoff from Jimmy Garoppolo) could be a sensible roster addition as a dual-threat back to back up both Blount as a between-the-tackles runner and White as a capable pass-catcher (as well as $300,000 in guaranteed money). He caught just eight passes last season but snagged over 25 in each of the two years prior. Brown will need to show he's healthy enough to contribute, though, as he's missed significant practice time in training camp rehabbing from injury. Tyler Gaffney may be a difficult omission given the amount of effort he's put in to return from season-ending injuries over the last two seasons, but Blount showed last week against the Bears that he's still this team's No. 1 "big back." Bolden makes the squad here due to his special-teams ability, but his spot could be in jeopardy as he's had difficulty as a running back (drops in practice, a fumble against the Bears) in recent weeks.
RECEIVER (6): JULIAN EDELMAN, DANNY AMENDOLA, CHRIS HOGAN, MALCOLM MITCHELL, KESHAWN MARTIN, MATTHEW SLATER
Martin (left) is the one question mark at this position since, like Brown, he has missed significant practice reps as he has rehabbed from injury. The Patriots could add another receiver -- like Aaron Dobson or Nate Washington -- if they feel as though they need further insurance for Edelman, Amendola and Mitchell, all of whom have significant injury histories. But none of the back-end-of-the-depth-chart wideouts have distanced themselves from the pack.
TIGHT END (4): ROB GRONKOWSKI, MARTELLUS BENNETT, JAMES DEVELIN, AJ DERBY
Through training camp and into the preseason, Derby (left) has shown an ability to make contested catches -- including a touchdown in traffic against the Bears -- and he's been solid in the running game as a blocker, which should earn him significant roster consideration. It may be difficult for him to get onto the field with both Gronkowski and Bennett healthy, but he's played well enough that it seems unlikely that he'd clear waivers if released and be eligible to land back on the Patriots practice squad. Still relatively new to the position, Derby may be considered a developmental player, but he looks like a valuable one. Five players in this group may seem heavy, but the Patriots could potentially find room to keep versatile veteran Clay Harbor, especially given the fact that he's earned $400,000 in guarantees.
OFFENSIVE TACKLE (4): NATE SOLDER, MARCUS CANNON, LaADRIAN WADDLE, CAMERON FLEMING
Because Sebastian Vollmer is dealing with a nagging hip injury that has put his availability this season into question, the Patriots have a difficult question to consider: Do they go with three tackles or four? The latter feels like the most likely scenario right now. Fleming (left) seems to be firmly on the bubble, but the Patriots like to use him in their heavy sets as a blocking tight end. If they feel like that could be a big part of their game plans with Garoppolo behind center, it would warrant a roster spot.
GUARD (4): SHAQ MASON, JOE THUNEY, JOSH KLINE, TED KARRAS
Outside of the left guard spot, which will be Thuney's, there's plenty of uncertainty at this position. Jonathan Cooper (left) hasn't been spotted at practice since suffering a foot injury early in training camp, but he has practiced, making him ineligible for a PUP designation to start the regular season. Though there have not been any indications that this is what the Patriots will do, in this projection I have Cooper beginning the season on short-term injured reserve, making him eligible to come back at some point midseason to bolster the depth here. Mason, who appeared primed to start at right guard, is reportedly dealing with a broken hand, and Kline seemed to aggravate a shoulder injury in last week's game against the Bears. Those ailments seem to call for an extra layer of insurance at this spot, which is why sixth-round draft pick Karras -- who has played center, guard and tackle in camp -- gets the nod.
CENTER (2): DAVID ANDREWS, BRYAN STORK
In our last projection, we had just one player (Andrews) listed here. Now, given the rash of injuries on the offensive line, Stork (left) has been added back. Though he's primarily a center, he knows the offense well enough to fill in at guard in an emergency situation.
DEFENSIVE END (6): JABAAL SHEARD, ROB NINKOVICH, CHRIS LONG, SHEA McCLELLIN, TREY FLOWERS, GENEO GRISSOM
This group is dealing with some injuries themselves as Sheard, Ninkovich and McClellin have all missed practice time lately. But none of those injuries seem serious enough to warrant a major roster shakeup. This still looks like one of the deepest position groups on the roster -- particularly with what Flowers (left) has shown in preseason action thus far.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE (4): MALCOLM BROWN, ALAN BRANCH, TERRANCE KNIGHTON, VINCENT VALENTINE
There have been moments, particularly against the Bears, where it looks like Knighton (left) is still getting accustomed to the techniques the Patriots want to see from their defensive tackles. But that should come in time. He was a good player for the Redskins last season when healthy, and he could be an effective complement to Brown and Branch. Though Branch was suspended by the team recently, his skill set is one that the Patriots would have a hard time parting with. Anthony Johnson flashed a unique skill set on the interior against the Bears, but the Patriots would probably like to see more from him in order to award him with a roster spot. They are deep enough at end that they could use one or more of those rushers on the interior in obvious passing situations.
LINEBACKER (4): JAMIE COLLINS, DONT'A HIGHTOWER, JONATHAN FREENY, KAMU GRUGIER-HILL
The Patriots have something in Grugier-Hill (left), it seems. Even if it's only as a special teams player at the moment, his athleticism and his ability to make plays on the football is worth holding onto. Tom Brady came out of one practice last week telling former teammate and current Bears quarterback Brian Hoyer not to worry after getting picked off by Grugier-Hill because the Eastern Illinois product has had a knack for making plays throughout camp.
CORNER (4): MALCOLM BUTLER, LOGAN RYAN, CYRUS JONES, JUSTIN COLEMAN
It may not be an ideal scenario for the Patriots to go with just four players at corner, but they got by with just two for much of last season because their depth and versatility at safety allowed them to lean on that position in nickel and dime packages. A spot could be made for Jonathan Jones, Darryl Roberts, Cre'Von LeBlanc (left) or EJ Biggers here, but none of those newcomers has stood out in such a way that they demand a spot on the 53-man roster.
SAFETY (6): DEVIN McCOURTY, PATRICK CHUNG, DURON HARMON, JORDAN RICHARDS, BRANDON KING, NATE EBNER
From top to bottom, this may be the deepest position on the roster. Ebner (left) was not willing to say whether or not he'd be ready for the regular season after spending most of the offseason with USA Rugby, but he has returned to practice and seems to be in good condition.
SPECIALISTS (3): STEPHEN GOSTKOWSKI, RYAN ALLEN, JOE CARDONA
No changes here. This three-man operation should be only getting more and more comfortable as Cardona (left) goes into his second year.