Phil Perry’s Patriots Roster Projection 5.0
Phil Perry’s Patriots Roster Projection 5.0
After Tuesday's cuts, the Patriots roster is down to 75 players. That number won't last for long, though, because by Saturday at 4 p.m. the list will have to be trimmed again to 53.
One of the names that will be lopped off the active roster will be Tom Brady's as his four-game suspension will start soon after the Patriots visit the Giants Thursday night for their fourth preseason game of the year. The rest of the moves to reduce the roster are up in the air, but here is our best guess at what the final 53 will look like.
QUARTERBACK (2): JIMMY GAROPPOLO, JACOBY BRISSETT
Given the way Brissett has improved from week to week since the start of training camp, it seems as though the team should be comfortable with him as its backup beginning Week 1. There may be other more capable quarterbacks who become available after cuts have been made around the league, but there is no signal-caller on the list of current free agents -- which includes Matt Flynn, Ryan Lindley and Mike Vick -- who would be a sure thing as an emergency contributor.
RUNNING BACK (3): LeGARRETTE BLOUNT, JAMES WHITE, DJ FOSTER
This is one of the more difficult positions on the Patriots roster to project. Blount and White seem to be locks as the team's top "big back" and "sub back," respectively. After that? It's a tough call. Foster, to me, looks like the type of player another team would be willing to take a chance on if the Patriots released him. Rare is the late training-camp cut who catches on with another program to join their 53-man roster, but Foster could have the skill set to warrant such a gamble. He looked quick in New England's preseason win over Carolina -- Foster's preseason debut -- and he was highly sought after as an undrafted free agent. Sub backs are key components to the Patriots offense, and if Bill Belichick believes he has a good one on his hands, he may be reluctant to part ways. Gaffney, meanwhile, has had a strong camp, but he has practice squad eligibility, and could serve as the team's emergency call-up should Blount become unavailable. Brandon Bolden is also a late cut in this scenario. A talented special teams player, Bolden has had difficulty showing consistency as a running back in camp and preseason play, with his fumble against the Bears as a noteworthy error. Bolden's value in the past has been tied to his ability to serve as a dependable backup.
RECEIVER (6): JULIAN EDELMAN, DANNY AMENDOLA, CHRIS HOGAN, MALCOLM MITCHELL, KESHAWN MARTIN, MATTHEW SLATER
Martin still seems to be the best option for the Patriots on the back end of their depth chart at this position. He has some special teams value as a returner if the Patriots choose to use him in that role, he can play both outside and in the slot, and he's developed a rapport with Brady that was put on display at times early last season. Though Martin has missed practice time due to injury, none of the challengers for that No. 5 receiver spot, including Aaron Dobson, have done much to seize the job.
TIGHT END (4): ROB GRONKOWSKI, MARTELLUS BENNETT, JAMES DEVELIN, AJ DERBY
If the Patriots go with three running backs as opposed to four, that may leave them the roster room they need to keep Clay Harbor. In this projection, however, Harbor is one of the team's final releases. He's shown proficiency as a blocker, but he hasn't been much of a factor in the passing game, catching two of three targets for 23 yards in 41 snaps. Derby, on the other hand, has shown flashes of ability -- the Brady pass he dropped against the Panthers last week notwithstanding -- that make him worthy of a roster stash even though he may not contribute a great deal with Gronkowski and Bennett ahead of him on the depth chart.
OFFENSIVE TACKLE (3): NATE SOLDER, MARCUS CANNON, LaADRIAN WADDLE
Cameron Fleming could wind up with a roster spot should the Patriots consider his abilities as a blocking tight end to be a vital part of their run-heavy packages. He's performed well in that role over the course of his career and into this preseason. If he's not on the club, however, that won't mean those packages will be removed from the playbook. In theory, Waddle could be subbed in for Cannon at right tackle and Cannon's athleticism could help him serve the role of the blocking tight end.
INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINE (6): JOE THUNEY, SHAQ MASON, JOSH KLINE, JONATHAN COOPER, DAVID ANDREWS, TED KARRAS
At the moment, Thuney and Kline appear to be set to start at left and right guard, respectively, but the right guard spot could be fluid depending on the health of players like Mason and Cooper. Stork's release makes Andrews the go-to guy at center, and Karras (center/guard) provides the team with some versatile depth on the inside. Should Mason or Cooper end up on a reserve list to start the season, that could open a roster spot for someone like Gaffney, Bolden, Harbor or Fleming.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE (4): MALCOM BROWN, ALAN BRANCH, VINCENT VALENTINE, MARKUS KUHN
This is one of the more challenging positional groups to project. Valentine impressed with his snaps against the Panthers, and the third-round pick should factor into the rotation on the interior with Brown and Branch. Kuhn provides additional depth, especially while Valentine adjusts to the pro game. The Patriots used four big-bodied tackles on the interior last year with Brown, Branch, Akiem Hicks and Sealver Siliga. If Valentine isn't ready for much more than a Siliga-style workload (about 20 snaps per game in 2015), then Kuhn would help solidify things on the interior. Penetrating defensive tackle Anthony Johnson was left off in this scenario not necessarily because he didn't perform well this preseason. He did. But the Patriots have good depth at defensive end, and several of their edge rushers can be used on the interior in passing situations. Johnson's explosiveness inside might make him an ideal practice-squad candidate.
DEFENSIVE END (6): JABAAL SHEARD, ROB NINKOVICH, CHRIS LONG, SHEA McCLELLIN, TREY FLOWERS, GENEO GRISSOM
The projection at this position has been relatively consistent throughout the preseason. Grissom seems to be the only player who has had a difficult time establishing his value defensively, but he is a special teams staple with the athleticism and upside to potentially become a contributing player on the defensive line in the future.
LINEBACKER (5): DONT'A HIGHTOWER, JAMIE COLLINS, JONATHAN FREENY, BARKEVIOUS MINGO, KAMU GRUGIER-HILL
Freeny signed a contract extension recently so his spot as the primary fill-in at linebacker and core special teamer is safe. Grugier-Hill dealt with an illness that forced him to miss Friday's game in Carolina, but he returned to practice on Tuesday. His presence as a hybrid linebacker-safety type who can contribute in the kicking game makes him an interesting inclusion on the initial 53-man roster.
CORNERBACK (5): MALCOLM BUTLER, LOGAN RYAN, CYRUS JONES, JUSTIN COLEMAN, CRE'VON LeBLANC
The Patriots could decide to go with just four players at this position due in part to their depth at safety, but LeBlanc has been impressive enough to warrant consideration for a spot. His ability to play the football -- a trait that can be difficult to evaluate, Belichick admitted recently -- has been impressive.
SAFETY (6): DEVIN McCOURTY, PATRICK CHUNG, DURON HARMON, JORDAN RICHARDS, BRANDON KING, NATE EBNER
Perhaps the deepest position group on the roster top-to-bottom, each one of these six players will be leaned on for their special teams ability in addition to whatever roles big (McCourty, Chung) or not-so-big (King, Ebner) they have defensively.
SPECIALISTS (3): STEPHEN GOSTKOWSKI, RYAN ALLEN, JOE CARDONA
This group is set to begin its second season together as a three-man operation when the Patriots head to Arizona for Week 1.