2020 NFL season

Patriots 53-man roster projection entering training camp

Patriots 53-man roster projection entering training camp

The Patriots have already hit the field in Foxboro, but we'll have to wait until Monday to see them put the pads on for the first time.

It will be a training camp unlike any other; New England was supposed to open the preseason Thursday night against the Lions — and their 2020 season-opener against the Dolphins is just a month away.

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But Bill Belichick will have a lot of decisions to make over the next few weeks. Will Cam Newton seize the starting QB job as expected — and will the team carry both Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer as well? How can the team make up for a league-high eight opt-outs including defensive stalwarts Dont'a Hightower and Patrick Chung along with starting right tackle Marcus Cannon? How many of the team's 10 draft picks from this spring will make the team?

Those questions will be answered over the coming weeks, but before practices begin in earnest, let's take an early look at how the team's roster will shake out.

Click here for the Patriots' 53-man roster projection entering training camp.


So far, it's been positive news for NFL on COVID front

So far, it's been positive news for NFL on COVID front

The Patriots reported to training camp nearly two weeks ago, but they haven’t really started “TRAINING CAMP” yet. That begins Monday when the first padded practices are held.

Plenty of people predicted the league would never get to this point.

And, when Monday rolls around, plenty more will predict the bell is about to toll for the league. The futility of trying to play football during a pandemic and not have a spate of players test positive? Won’t happen.

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We’ll see.

But two weeks in, it’s worth digging into all the numbers to get a read on how it’s gone.

As of Tuesday, 107 of the league’s players had gone on the league’s Reserve/COVID-19 list, according to NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero.

Eighty players have been activated off the list and 27 players are still on it which — as Pelissero points out — is less than one percent of the league’s roster. Only six players were placed on the list from last Friday through Monday.

A player doesn’t necessarily need to test positive to land on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Close contact with a COVID-Positive individual will also land a player there to serve a quarantine period during which he’ll be tested. He must twice test negative for the virus if that’s the reason he’s on the list.

Also, an asymptomatic player who tests positive will be removed from the list if he takes two additional tests in the ensuing 24 hours and both come back negative. That’s a tweak to the process that came about after Lions quarterback Matt Stafford had a false positive last week that landed him on the Reserve list.  

The Patriots are one of five teams with no players having gone on the list. Arizona, Carolina, Houston and the Chargers are the others. Interestingly, aside from the Patriots, all are in areas that have flared up this summer.

There have been no reported hospitalizations of players due to the virus. Meanwhile, Cameron Smith of the Vikings feels “blessed” after he tested positive because further tests revealed a congenital heart condition that he was unaware of. Smith will have surgery to repair the condition.

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Earlier this week I found out I need open heart surgery to fix a bicuspid aortic valve that I was born with. Although this will unfortunately end my 2020 season, it is really a blessing that we found this as my heart is severely enlarged and wouldn’t have lasted much longer. I found this out after I tested positive for COVID and had to have further testing done as protocol. The Lord works in mysterious ways, but I could really feel him on this one!🙏🏻 There is a surgery that will allow me to continue to play football as soon as I am healed and cleared and I didn’t think twice about going with that one. By no means am I ready to be done playing football, there is still so much more I want to accomplish on the field. Im going to attack this like everything else I have in life. Already looking forward to the comeback! #SKOL

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While the testing numbers are undeniably encouraging, players who do have COVID have been sidelined for long spells before being cleared to return.

As of Tuesday, 20 players had been out for at least 12 days. Combined, the 20 had been on for 264 days, a 13.2 day average. The 107 total players missed a total of 816 days, an average of 7.7 days per player.

There’s no getting around the fact that, undoubtedly with some exceptions, the NFL, the coaches and the players are working really hard to make it work. And it’s working.

So far.

But they’re not taking victory laps. Saints coach Sean Payton, who had COVID in the offseason, hasn’t had a player contract the illness since camp began (two of his players tested positive, were on the Reserve/COVID list then tested off, an indication of a false positive).

“I’m proud and glad that we haven’t had a positive test,” Payton told USA Today’s Jarrett Bell. “But you need to know something: Just when you think everything is good, bam! We’ll have eight,” Payton said. “That’s how this guy works. This isn’t like we’ve got this figured out. Man, we don’t have this figured out.”

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Why Chris Simms thinks RB Lamar MIller will play big role for Patriots

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Why Chris Simms thinks RB Lamar MIller will play big role for Patriots

Over the past 12 seasons, the Patriots have had eight different players lead the team in rushing yards.

Only Sony Michel, Legarrette Blount, Stevan Ridley and BenJarvus Green-Ellis have repeated, while Dion Lewis, Jonas Gray, Laurence Maroney and Sammy Morris each led New England for one season over that stretch.

So could there be another changing of the guard in the 2020 season?

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Michel is starting training camp on the PUP list and his availability for Week 1 is reportedly in question, potentially leaving the door open for one of the team's other running backs to hit the ground running when the season opens next month. And while James White, Rex Burkhead and Damien Harris are the incumbents on the roster, a newcomer could take the opportunity and — pun definitely intended — run with it.

Lamar Miller reached agreement on a one-year contract with the Patriots on Monday, but just a year removed from tearing his ACL in a preseason game with the Texans, he's a long-shot, right? NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms doesn't think so, telling Mike Florio on NBC Sports Network's "Pro Football Talk" that he thinks Miller can recapture the form that made him a Pro Bowler in his last full season (2018).

"I'm going to say he has a significant role. Lamar Miller didn't play last year, but two years ago, (he) was very impressive," Simms said. "I mean, he's a home run hitter. He can bounce it outside and take it 70 yards up the sideline. He's always been that type of player. Unfortunately, like the guy we just talked about (Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette), he's been on some teams — the Dolphins, the Houston Texans — who have had just crap offensive lines in front of him.

"So his stats are never going to tell you how good he is, but the fact he knows that system, being from Billy O'Brien and then going into New England, he'll have the jump-start there. And you know them, they're never going to have a true bell-cow, but I think he will be a part of that rotation and have a serious role this year."

Even if the stats don't tell Miller's full story, they still paint the picture of a solid running back.. Prior to the ACL injury, the 29-year-old had rushed for at least 850 yards in five straight seasons, only missing four games over that stretch. He's also busted off a pair of 97-yard touchdown runs over his NFL career, something that Mike Florio pointed out while illustrating what a low-risk, high-reward addition Miller could be.

"If he's healthy, who knows what he can do for New England?" Florio added. "And it's going to be one of those situations where we say 'Bill Belichick, the genius, at it again.' A guy who's just out there, waiting to be signed and Belichick does it."

Patriots Talk Podcast: Don Yee and the remedy for college football’s ‘industrial complex’ | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube