Backup QB Competition It has not been announced whether or not Tom Brady will start Friday’s contest but regardless if he does or not Ryan Mallett and Jimmy Garoppolo will be managing the majority of snaps at the QB position for the Patriots. It is amazing the turn the backup QB competition has taken in the last week. Going into last Thursday’s game against the Redskins, Mallett was the incumbent 2nd string QB seemed like a lock again at that position. Garoppolo was struggling in practices mightily while reports continued to show promise in Mallett’s continuing development with the hopes of landing a starting gig next season. Then the game happened, Mallett was horrible and Garoppolo shined. It will be worth paying attention to this week. While it is likely that the Patriots still carry three QBs on the opening 53-man roster, it no longer looks like a 100% certainty.
Running Back Depth Chart With the rookie RB releases of Stephen Houston and Roy Finch last week the Patriots roster is down to basically four RBs of which 3 I expect to make the roster, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and rookie addition James White, with Brandon Bolden left on the outside looking in. There isn’t much competition as far as roster spots go for running backs this summer, but there may be a competition for the starting job brewing. Bill Belichick has sung James White’s praises all summer long and this week during joint practices with the Eagles, James White got 1st team reps. This could be a storyline in Friday’s game and it will be interesting to see who suits up with what offensive units.
Tight End Battle The tight end position is another position with two cuts in the last week Asa Watson and Justin Jones. From the signings announced earlier this week only former OL and practice squad member Steve Maneri remains. Michael Hoomanawanui and DJ Williams roster spots are far from guarantees and Rob Gronkowski while making progress still may not even suit up to begin the season. Hooman’s contract puts him in a bad position as he is due a $400k roster bonus while only commanding a $740k salary, along with only $180k regular bonus. None of DJ Williams’ contract is guaranteed. With both also hobbled by injury the tight end position is wide open for the 2nd season in a row. I expect this will continue to be a big storyline over the next three weeks. Don’t expect any two tight-end sets anytime soon.
Center Competition With Bryan Stork missing practice the last week or so the center competition has fallen between two veterans in Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell. To this point it appears Connolly has the lead in the competition, leaving Wendell squarely on the roster bubble. If Brady gets in the game on Friday it will be notable who is snapping the ball to him.
No Safe Safeties After Devin McCourty, there are big question marks regarding the safety position. It appeared that Duron Harmon had a large lead for the starting spot heading into training camp, but any lead he may have had has now vanished. There has been a rotation of safeties vying for the spot with no one really showing they deserve it. This will be one of the positions that the coaching staff will be focusing their time on as well as trying several combinations. We may have Patrick Chung back in New England for a year folks!
Jamie Collins The Eagles are a perfect matchup to see if Collins progression is where everyone in New England hopes it is. They have skills players at the RB and TE positions that offer very challenging matchups for Collins. Darren Sproles and Lesean McCoy will be in the running for the most dynamic RB duo in the league this year and will get plenty of work catching passes out of the back field. Zach Ertz and Brent Celek also have the chance to be in the running for the best tight end duo in the NFL this year. Collins didn’t suit up for the Redskins matchup last week, but if he does this week it will be exciting to see if he gets to test his development against some of the league’s very best.