By: Jake Mackey
Now that we are officially two weeks into training camp and the first preseason game has come and gone, it is officially time to start deciding who should be on and off the Patriots roster. Therefore, here is my first 53-man roster projection for the 2016 New England Patriots:
Quarterback: Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett. The Patriots will not carry three quarterbacks for the first four weeks of the season, meaning they will not sign a veteran like Michael Vick. It does not make sense financially or from a roster standpoint. It also would not be good for the confidence of Jimmy Garoppolo. Belichick did not bring in a veteran in 2008 when Matt Cassell was thrust into the starting role, and he should not do it now. In addition, Jacoby Brisett looked just fine against the Saints. Dare I say he outplayed Garoppolo?
Running Back: Dion Lewis, James White, Brandon Bolden, LeGarrette Blount, James Develin. I want to say that the Patriots will cut LeGarrette Blount because he brings nothing to the table anymore, but there is no other options, and Bill Belichick really has an affinity for him since he traded for him during day three of the 2013 draft. Tyler Gaffney had a really nice touchdown run on Thursday night, but lets not forget Jonas Gray had virtually the same run in last year’s preseason opener and he did not make it to week one.
Wide Receiver: Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, Keshawn Martin, Chris Harper. There are pretty much four locks on the Patriots roster at wide receiver, that fifth spot is really up for contention between the likes of Aaron Dobson, Chris Harper, and DeAndre Carter at this point. If you have to take one the best option is Harper. The Aaron Dobson project is over, he is the Clay Buchholz of the Patriots, unmatched potential but never lives up to it. Harper has a year in the system and a solid relationship with the quarterbacks. Go with him until Malcolm Mitchell comes back. I would expect him to land on short-term injured reserve.
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett, Bear Pascoe. The third tight end spot is also a position with a lot of competition. Ultimately it comes down to the fact that the Patriots need a true blocking tight end, and the 30-year old Pascoe brings that much more than AJ Derby or Clay Harbor. Derby would likely land on the practice squad.
Offensive Tackle: Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, LaAdrian Waddle, Marcus Cannon. The Patriots need bodies at tackle, and keeping as many as you can is smart. We saw how weak they were depth wise last season when tight end Michael Williams had to fill in at tackle.
Guard: Shaq Mason, Joe Thuney, Ted Karras, Josh Kline. Jonathan Cooper has not stepped on the field since day three of training camp, therefore he is was behind in terms of getting acclimated with a whole new offense. I tend to think he will either get cut or possibly be placed on injured reserve. I would also expect Tre’ Jackson to start the year on PUP at this point.
Center: David Andrews, Bryan Stork. David Andrews is winning the battle at center right now. Stork continues to battle concussion issues, and flat out has not been as good as he was his rookie season. A move to guard may be what he needs.
Defensive End: Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Trey Flowers, Geneo Grissom. I want to see Chris Long on this team, I really do. However, I can’t see Bill Belichick cutting either Grissom or Flowers. Both are second year guys who were chosen in the third-round of the 2015 draft, and it would not make much sense to dump them just yet. Grissom would be the more likely candidate of the two though.
Defensive Tackle: Malcom Brown, Terrance Knighton, Alan Branch, Vincent Valentine. The Patriots will certainly have plenty of girth on the interior of the defensive line this season with each player coming in well over 32o pounds, with Terrance Knighton and Alan Branch probably inching closer to 400. They will have the ability to play a true 3-4 like they did in 2004 with Richard Seymour, Ty Warren, and Vince Wilfork.
Linebacker: Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Shea McClellin, Jonathan Freeny, Kamu Grugier-Hill. As much as I like Elandon Roberts, the sixth round rookie out of Houston, because he is just a 6-0 ball of muscle that wants to takes heads off, I don’t see Bill Belichick opening up a spot for him on this team. There is simply no room. Luckily with the addition of Shea McClellin it means we get to see less Jonathan Freeny on the defensive side of the ball.
Safety: Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Patrick Chung, Jordan Richards, Brandon King. No real stunners here. It will be interesting to see how Matt Patricia splits up reps between Chung and Richards seeing how they are virtually the same player.
Cornerback: Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones, Justin Coleman, Cre’von LeBlanc. As much as I wanted to see Darryl Roberts have a solid camp just to knock Justin Coleman off the roster I do not see it happening, he has been awful thus far. Cre’von LeBlanc may have earned himself a job with that ridiculous one-handed end zone interception on Thursday night. I would still hope the Patriots pick up another corner because they are really lacking in talent behind Malcolm Butler.
(Video: pigs of dogs youtube channel)
Special Teams: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner. I feel confident in saying that the Patriots have the most talented special teams unit National Football League. They have the best kicker in the game, the best, “gunner” in the game in Matthew Slater, and an olympian in Nate Ebner who is one of the better coverage men on kickoffs in the league. Just don’t let him pooch kick it anymore Bill.