By: Jake Mackey
As we dig deeper and deeper into the dog days of the NFL offseason, it becomes harder to generate conversation about our favorite teams. We just patiently await the start of training camp. So what better way to pass the time than a little roster projection. Not the 53-man roster, but the starting roster for the Patriots for week one in Arizona.
Quarterback: Jimmy Garoppolo. Obviously with Tom Brady’s suspension still looming, Jimmy Garoppolo has to be penciled in as the week one starter. The drafting of Jacoby Brissett was a sign of faith in Garoppolo by Bill Belichick. He opted to draft another quarterback to be his back up for four weeks, as opposed to brining in a veteran to possibly compete for the spot. Matt Flynn was brought in last year to possibly push Garoppolo for the starting gig last summer.
Running back: Dion Lewis. The sentiment around the Patriots media and fan contingent is that Dion Lewis will not be the same come September as he was at the start of the 2015 season. I for one do not buy into that notion. Lewis tore his ACL in November, not January. In addition, Lewis only had the torn ACL, and not and MCL which typically slows down the rehab process.
Wide Receiver: Julian Edelman, Keshawn Martin. There has been fluctuating reports over the past week about the health of both Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. Both have had recent surgeries. Amendola had surgery on both his knee and ankle. Edelman, a clean up procedure on his foot. I would put my money on one of them being out in week one, and the more likely candidate would be Amendola given the fact that he had multiple operations quite recently. Chris Hogan may take a few weeks to really find his niche in the Patriots offense, as most new receivers do in Foxborough.
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennentt. The Patriots tight end duo will be one to be reckoned with in 2016, and it should carry them through the first four weeks. The scheme will not be the same as it was when Aaron Hernandez was on the other side of Gronkowski. It will be more of a physical presence of Gronkowski and Bennentt as both stand at 6-6, 270 pounds. Defenses will have to key in on them in third and long situations, leaving players such as Julian Edelman and Dion Lewis open underneath.
(GIF Credit: SBNation.com)
Offensive Tackle: Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer. This should be the ray of sunshine for all of Patriots fans. When Nate Solder went down in week five last season, the offensive line went to shambles, as Vollmer had to shift to the lefts side and Marcus Cannon and Michael Williams had to rotate on the right. The result was Tom Brady getting hit over 20-times in the AFC Championship. Now there should normalcy at offensive tackle.
Guard: Tre’ Jackson, Jonathan Cooper. Many have put down Jonathan Cooper this offseason. He is labeled as a thrown-in in the Chandler Jones trade. However, a coach like Dante Scarnecchia will be able to get the full potential out of the former top ten pick.
Center: Bryan Stork. This may very well be a camp battle between Stork and David Andrews. Andrews took over for Stork for the first half of last season as Stork recovered from a serious concussion. Stork came back and did not perform well all season. In the end, the nod will go to Stork because he was a hand-picked Dante Scarnecchia guy.
Defensive End: Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard. The Patriots defensive line will see a lot of rotation in 2016. It appears as though they are transitioning to more of a 3-4 given their offseason moves. Sheard will assume the role of Chandler Jones, and Ninkovich may have less of a workload due to the acquisition on Chris Long.
Defensive Tackle: Malcom Brown, Terrance Knighton. With Akiem Hicks and Dominique Easley gone, that tells us that Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia have full faith in Malcom Brown to assume to starting tackle position. Terrance Knighton is on a one-year deal which means he has something to prove in training camp. Expect a solid season from, “Pot roast.”
Linebacker: Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Shea McClellin. The Patriots tossed some money at Shea McClellin this offseason which makes you presume that they have a plan for him. Stick him in the middle of the defense and make him cover running backs coming out of the backfield with his speed. That allows Dont’a Hightower to get in the backfield more often.
Cornerback: Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan. These two are obvious. However, due to the fact that the Patriots use a heavy nickel package that will see Cyrus Jones as a starter. The Patriots do not have a legitimate nickel back on the roster currently. Therefore, expect Jones to be the only rookie that sees solid time on the field in 2016.
Safety: Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon. In addition to these obvious expect Jordan Richards to see an increased role on defense. He saw more and more time last year, and as Patrick Chung gets older, he could use some help at the sudo-linebacker position.