Phil Perry’s Patriots 53-man roster projection, 2.0
It's still early. But we're getting there.
With two preseason games in the books, with injuries starting to slowly mount, you can start to formulate some semblance of an idea of what the Patriots roster could look like in September.
Enough qualifiers for you? Nature of the beast this time of year. There's only so much we know. There's plenty we don't. Still, this can be a useful exercise to track how players are trending . . . so we’ll take another crack.
QUARTERBACK (2): TOM BRADY, BRIAN HOYER
With Brady playing the first half, and with Hoyer getting almost the entire second, that left Danny Etling with just seven snaps of action against the Eagles. If the team likes the way he's developing, he could end up a practice squad candidate.
RUNNING BACK (5): REX BURKHEAD, JAMES WHITE, JEREMY HILL, SONY MICHEL, BRANDON BOLDEN
This unit may be the toughest to project because both Burkhead and Michel have missed time due to injury. Including Bolden here gives the Patriots experienced depth should they run into an emergency situation. He's also a staple in the kicking game, which is always a factor as Bill Belichick assembles his roster. Hill still appears to have an edge on Mike Gillislee as the group's "big back."
RECEIVER (5): CHRIS HOGAN, PHILLIP DORSETT, CORDARRELLE PATTERSON, KENNY BRITT, MATTHEW SLATER
At some point, Britt is going to have to practice. Now that workouts are closed off to media, it'll be more difficult to know just how much he's doing. But for this projection, we're assuming he'll be healthy enough to dress Week 1. Eric Decker will continue to get opportunities to make his presence felt, but there's only so much time left for him. Riley McCarron, Braxton Berrios and Devin Lucien look like potential p-squad candidates at the moment.
TIGHT END (4): ROB GRONKOWSKI, JACOB HOLLISTER, DWAYNE ALLEN, JAMES DEVELIN
This group seems set. Allen is the one player here whose role could be tenuous. Releasing him would save the Patriots $5 million. Does his value to the team, which projects more as a blocker than a true dual-threat player, match up with that number? Probably not. But he does have value, and I think he remains.
OFFENSIVE LINE (8): TRENT BROWN, JOE THUNEY, DAVID ANDREWS, SHAQ MASON, MARCUS CANNON, LaADRIAN WADDLE, TED KARRAS, COLE CROSTON
The Patriots suffered a major blow by losing Isaiah Wynn to an Achilles injury on Thursday night against the Eagles. He may have projected as a backup with both Brown and Cannon apparently entrenched as starters when healthy, but capable reserve tackles are critical. The Patriots needed four players to start at tackle last season en route to the Super Bowl. Cole Croston, who held a spot on the Patriots roster all year last year, benefits from the opening. He may not be quite as polished as veteran backups Matt Tobin or Ulrick John, but his ceiling and his versatility to play along the line both at guard and tackle helps him.
SPECIALISTS (3): STEPHEN GOSTKOWSKI, RYAN ALLEN, JOE CARDONA
Nothing to see here. Punter Corey Bojorquez has yet to punt in a preseason game for the Patriots, meaning Allen's job looks safe. "The opportunities to play have to be earned," Belichick said Friday.
DEFENSIVE LINE (8): TREY FLOWERS, ADRIAN CLAYBORN, MALCOM BROWN, DANNY SHELTON, LAWRENCE GUY, DEATRICH WISE, DEREK RIVERS, KEIONTA DAVIS
Davis is the new addition in this week's projection. At 280 pounds, he's been used on the inside this summer as well as on the edge -- and that versatility could help him. Particularly if the Patriots coaching staff views him as someone in competition for a gig with interior rusher Adam Butler. Davis started Thursday, led the defense in snaps (54), and racked up five total pressures. Belichick acknowledged on Friday that Davis' reaction time isn't what it could be after a season on NFI last year. But the coach, who reportedly personally worked out Davis last year before the draft, is encouraged. "I like what he's been doing," Belichick said. Geneo Grissom, a core special-teamer (he was included on all four first-team kicking-game units Friday), could end up included in this group by summer's end.
LINEBACKER (6): DONT'A HIGHTOWER, KYLE VAN NOY, JA'WHAUN BENTLEY, BRANDON KING, NICHOLAS GRIGSBY, MARQUIS FLOWERS
Plenty of special teams experience here. King, Grigsby and Flowers all project as major contributors in the kicking game. Bentley has shown enough this preseason that if the Patriots were to ever let him go to waivers, there's a good chance they wouldn't get him back. Can't see them letting it get to that point. Bentley arrived to the NFL as a fairly easy projection as a run defender. But he's been solid, if not perfect, against the pass as well. And his instincts look advanced for someone his age at his position. "He sees things well and can sort them out and make good pre-snap decisions and make good post-snap decisions and make them quickly," Belichick said Friday. "Those all play to his advantage." The other rookie linebacker drafted this spring was Christian Sam, who landed on all four core special teams first groups. Though a promising sign, many of those reps probably would be taken on by Flowers had Flowers been dressed for the game.
CORNER (7): STEPHON GILMORE, ERIC ROWE, JASON McCOURTY, DUKE DAWSON, JC JACKSON, JONATHAN JONES, CYRUS JONES
I still believe McCourty provides enough to warrant a roster spot. Thursday's game against the Eagles featured a bad beat in the end zone and what looked like a failure to contain on the kickoff team, but depth at this position is crucial -- particularly when Dawson is currently dealing with an injury and with both Joneses coming off injury. We mentioned this in our initial projection, but we'll mention it again: Only three (out of 22) of Bill Belichick's second-round picks with the Patriots didn't see a third season in New England. Chad Jackson, Terrence Wheatley and Ras-I Dowling. If Cyrus Jones is healthy enough to return punts come September, that might be enough for him to land a spot. Jackson (a first-teamer on three core kicking-game units) still looks like a good bet to make it. Ryan Lewis and Keion Crossen (despite Crossen's three-penalty night against the Eagles) could be p-squad options.
SAFETY (5): DEVIN McCOURTY, PATRICK CHUNG, DURON HARMON, NATE EBNER, JORDAN RICHARDS
Eddie Pleasant is a name to keep an eye on here. He's an experienced special-teamer who Belichick seemed to be happy with when asked about him just a few days ago. "Eddie's an experienced player that's versatile," Belichick said. "He does a lot of things in the kicking game. He's played safety. He's also played some corner or nickel position on defense for the Texans. He's a smart kid." Might Pleasant's contributions be enough to push someone like Richards (a core-four special-teamer) for a roster spot? Or could there be a decision to make between someone like Pleasant and Cyrus Jones? Pleasant was one of the last left off this list. Pleasant was one of the last left off this list.