The New England Patriots will take the field for their final preseason game Sunday vs. the New York Giants. That means one last chance for players on the roster bubble to make their presence felt.
NFL teams are required to get their rosters down to 53 before Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET. Here's what we have the Patriots roster looking like after final cuts.
Quarterbacks (3): Cam Newton, Mac Jones, Brian Hoyer
When the top quarterback on the depth chart (at this point) is unvaccinated, it would behoove a team to make contingency plans. Keeping a third passer, Brian Hoyer in this instance, is COVID-era insurance at the most important position on the roster.
Hoyer’s vaccination status is unclear. If he’s not already fully vaccinated, being given a spot on the roster might provide him added motivation to change that.
Running backs (4): Damien Harris, James White, Rhamondre Stevenson, J.J. Taylor
No changes here. The Sony Michel trade came as very little surprise. Depth in Foxboro, injuries in LA, as well as Michel’s injury history and contract situation, made his departure make sense.
Now Rhamondre Stevenson can serve as Damien Harris’ backup. The fourth-round rookie and JJ Taylor may also share the hybrid role vacated by Rex Burkhead’s departure via free agency.
Wide receivers (5): Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, Matthew Slater
The roles here seem pretty clear. Nelson Agholor is the “X” on the outside. Kendrick Bourne is the “Z.” Jakobi Meyers works the slot.
Nelson Agholor should be the most frequently used wideout based on salary. But Meyers may end up being the No. 1 when it comes to production. He’s been the team’s best receiver in camp.
Tight ends (4): Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Devin Asiasi, Jakob Johnson
Could Kahale Warring make a push for a roster spot? He was a third-round pick back in 2019. He’s an impressive athlete. So maybe. But he’s also missed practice time in his first week with the team. The foursome listed above seems like the best bet for the roster come September.
Offensive linemen (8): Isaiah Wynn, Mike Onwenu, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Trent Brown, Justin Herron, Yodny Cajuste, Ted Karras
Yodny Cajuste — another third-rounder from that 2019 draft, if you recall — has been impressive enough, and he plays a valuable-enough position, that he may not make it through waivers at the end of camp. James Ferentz, on our last projection, may be able to be re-signed in the season’s first month if he’s left off the initial version of the active roster.
Specialists (3): Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona, Nick Folk
Nick Folk remains the guy here. He had to overcome what he called some “soreness” that left Quinn Nordin as the team’s lone kicker. But since he’s been back on the field, he’s been rock solid. Maybe Nordin sneaks through to the practice squad as a down-the-line option.
Defensive linemen (6): Lawrence Guy, Davon Godchaux, Christian Barmore, Deatrich Wise, Henry Anderson, Carl Davis
This is a deep, experienced and versatile group. Henry Anderson really has not flashed as an impact player this summer after signing for $3 million fully guaranteed in the offseason. The money involved makes it highly unlikely he’s anywhere but in Foxboro for Week 1.
“Henry is a smart player,” Bill Belichick said recently. “Has a lot of experience. Played really every position across the line from outside to inside and 2-technique, 3-technique, 4-technique. He has a good understanding of not only the position he's playing, but also what's going on around him because he's had experience playing in those spots as well…There's not really many players that do that, or can do that, that can play from a 9-technique outside the tight end to a 0-technique on the center. That's not really a really long list of guys so I'm glad we have him.”
Outside linebackers (6): Matt Judon, Kyle Van Noy, Josh Uche, Ronnie Perkins, Brandon King, Chase Winovich
This is an impressive group of pass-rushers relative to what the Patriots had on the edges of their defense last year. Consider Josh Uche was a rookie in a COVID-marred season and dealt with injury a year ago. Consider Matt Judon and Kyle Van Noy were on different clubs last year. The fact that Chase Winovich could be the team’s fourth or fifth (including versatile linebacker Dont’a Hightower) best pass-rusher and primarily a special-teamer this year — after maybe being their top rusher in 2020 — says a lot.
Inside linebackers (3): Dont'a Hightower, Ja'Whaun Bentley, Harvey Lang
Between Harvey Langi’s special-teams value and his ability to play on the line and off, he seems to have a real shot at making the initial roster. Maybe the team opts to keep Anfernee Jennings to play the same role. Maybe Dee Virgin is considered a better special-teamer and gets kept instead. But Langi has a shot.
Cornerbacks (6): Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jalen Mills, Justin Bethel, Shaun Wade
Will Stephon Gilmore be in uniform when Week 1 rolls around? If he’s not, that may leave the door open for Joejuan Williams to stick on the active roster. But Shaun Wade’s arrival, if Gilmore is active, could mean Williams begins the season elsewhere — either on the practice squad or on another club via free agency or trade — because there may not be enough room for seven corners on the 53-man list.
Myles Bryant, someone who’s on this projection as a safety but plays corner as well, would make eight capable players at that position. That’s a lot. Probably too many. Williams has special-teams value to the Patriots, but defensively he’s had some issues as a boundary corner this summer. Trading off a second-rounder from 2019 (Williams) for a fifth-rounder from 2021 (Wade) may seem like a bad swap. But Wade (6-1, 196 pounds, 33.5-inch arms) is thought to have impressive tools and the ability to play both inside and out. There’s some potential there. A year ago, he was considered by many to be a first-round talent.
Safeties (5): Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips, Kyle Dugger, Myles Bryant, Cody Davis
This group remains steady. The top three here are going to play and play a lot when healthy. Cody Davis will be a staple on special teams. Myles Bryant has dealt with injury — he’s been in a red non-contact jersey since the preseason opener — but seems to have carved out a spot for himself as a reserve piece in the secondary and a special-teams contributor.