A Closer Look At Patriots 53-Man Roster
With training camp just around the corner, the Patriots are about done adding bodies to the roster. While there are bound to be some late additions (perhaps John Abraham), the team will let the positional battles play out.
With that line of thinking, let’s take a “way too early” look at the possible 53-man roster while also analyzing potential roles.
This one isn’t terribly difficult to figure out. Barring an unexpected injury to Brady, look for New England to roll out this duo for a second straight year. While Mallet has failed to impress in preseason action, the team reportedly loves his arm strength. It’s tough to see the team keeping three quarterbacks unless they have a young guy they can’t live without. I don’t think Mike Kafka, the third QB currently on their roster, is that guy.
Running Back (5)
The Patriots could easily go with four backs, but in this early projection I have them going with five. Barring injuries, I think Ridley, Vereen and Washington are locks. If the team decides four is their limit, that final spot comes down to Bolden and Blount. Bolden is a solid special-team contributor so he’ll likely be active on gamedays. If Blount does make the roster, but can’t contribute on special-teams, he could be a regular on the inactive list.
Wide Receiver (5)
Tough to go with only five here, especially considering two are rookies. However, with New England often employing their tight ends like receivers anyway (namely Aaron Hernandez), this group can afford to have a few less bodies. Dobson and Boyce will have plenty of opportunities to prove themselves, much like Gronkowski and Hernandez did in their rookie years. Slater is a special-teamer first and will see little time at receiver. If Edelman’s injury keeps him out for an extended amount of time, he could be let go. Free-agent pickups Donald Jones or Lavelle Hawkins could take his spot if that’s the case.
Tight End (5)
The Patriots make up for their lack of WRs with five tight ends. Gronkowski will be on the field for every down if he’s healthy. Hernandez is a jack-of-all-trades and doesn’t spend much time lined up in the traditional TE spot. Ballard could see some early playing time if Gronkowski isn’t ready to go. I’m not ready to give up on Fells, who was a huge disappointment last year due to injuries. “Hoo-man” is more of a fullback option, but he’s effective wherever he lines up. If Gronkowski and Hernandez are 100% by the end of training camp, Fells probably gets cut.
Offensive line (8)
Nate Solder (T)
Logan Mankins (G)
Ryan Wendell (C)
Dan Connolly (C/G)
Sebastian Vollmer (T)
Marcus Cannon (T/G)
Nick McDonald (T/G/C)
Markus Zusevics (T/G)
The top seven guys are easy to predict. While there are some high cap charges in the group (namely Mankins and Connolly), it’s doubtful the Patriots cut ties with either player. Retaining Vollmer was an important offseason move for the team. Cannon and McDonald are both superb backups who could be starters on other teams. The last spot is hard to predict, but I give Zusevics the nod due to his tackle/guard versatility. Rookie free agent Matt Stankiewitch (center) and free-agent pickup Will Svitek (tackle) could make a push for a ninth spot in training camp.
Defensive Line (9)
Chandler Jones (DE)
Vince Wilfork (DT)
Tommy Kelly (DT)
Rob Ninkovich (DE)
Armond Armstead (DT)
Kyle Love (DT)
Justin Francis (DE)
Jake Bequette (DE)
Michael Buchanan (DE)
A group that’s tough to predict because we don’t know what roles some of these guys will be playing. In this edition, I project Ninkovich to stay at DE, Armstead to move inside, and Buchanan to play on the end. It was tough to let go of Deaderick and Cunningham, but both enter contract years and have little upside left. Love almost didn’t make the cut after a down 2012 campaign, but he stays as the only pure backup to Wilfork. Bequette, the team’s 2012 third-round pick, has hardly done anything and could be a surprise cut.
Collins, the patriots first draft pick in 2013, is projected to be a linebacker at this point. It will be interesting to see if the team elects to play more 3-4 fronts with Collins, Mayo, Hightower, and Spikes. Even if they don’t, Collins, seventh round pick Beauharnias, and Fletcher provide a nice amount of speed at linebacker that the team lacked in 2012. All are strong special team contributors as well, replacing Tracy White and Jeff Tarpinian in that department. Spikes could be a surprise star this year as he enters a contract year.
No surprises with the top three as the trade for Talib really gave the secondary a boost last year. Talib and Dennard could be one of the better tandems in the league with a full offseason. Arrington is a solid slot-corner who also contributes heavily on special teams. Ryan, drafted in the third round this year, will be a solid contributor on special teams and will see some time as a dime-back. Dowling will have a tough time making the roster after two injury-riddled seasons with the team. Unless he contributes on special teams, he could see a lot of time on the game-day inactive list.
The big question will be who lines up opposite McCourty in 2013. Tavon Wilson showed some promise in 2012 and could seize the starting role. Adrian Wilson could come in on passing downs as a coverage-linebacker next to Mayo. Harmon and Ebner will contribute on special teams. Gregory doesn’t make the cut because of a bad 2012 and a high cap number, $2.18 million according to sportsrac.com.
Gostowski had a down year in 2012, but will bounce back in 2013. The Patriots currently have Ryan Allen, an undrafted rookie free-agent, on the roster to battle against Mesko, who enters a contract year. It would be a surprise to see Allen take the job from Mesko, but Allen could be the Patriots starting punter in 2014. Aiken’s named was barely mentioned in 2012, which is a good sign for a long-snapper.