With preseason games done and final roster cuts coming due by 6pm on August 30th, here is a look at how I expect the Patriots to open the 2014 season against the Miami Dolphins on September 7th.
Quarterback (3): Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett, Jimmy Garoppolo (R)
There has been a lot of debate regarding the Patriots QB depth chart the last month. Many have speculated that the Patriots continue to keep only two QBs on the roster as they have the previous two seasons. In the end, unless a trade is consummated with another team, I expect the Pats to keep three QBs on the 53-man roster. While Jimmy G has impressed this preseason and Mallett hasn’t shown us he can be anything more than a career back-up, it still seems to fast to have a such a young guy, inexperienced guy as the only option if TB12 were to go down. Ideal situation at this point is a QB needy team trades a late round pick for Mallett.
Running Back / Full Back (4): Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, James White (R), James Develin
This position is fairly set at the top of the rotation and James Develin will be looking to continue his strong preseason as an addition to the run game as well as passing game. Final cuts are the two UDFAs Roy Finch and Jonas Gray. If one of these two end up on the roster, I think it is Roy Finch due to what he can provide as a kick returner on special teams.
Offensive Line (8): Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Dan Connolly, Josh Kline, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming (R), Bryan Stork (R), Jon Halapio (R)
With the gaping hole left by the Logan Mankins trade some younger players that may not have made the roster may have a shot. Final cuts include Ryan Wendell and Jordan Devey. Connolly has the ability to move back to his natural position at center and Stork can start his HOF career there later on in the year. All the reserves offer versatility on the line that will likely be shuffling around to start the year.
Wide Receiver (6): Julian Edelman, Aaron Dobson, Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell, Kenbrell Thompkins, Josh Boyce, Brian Tyms*
Many people believe that this is a ragtag group that only succeeds because of Tom Brady and while that may be true, I think it is one of the deepest receiving cores the Patriots have provided Brady since 2007. I don’t know if Brady has ever a wide receiving core with as much size as this one does.
Tight End (3): Rob Gronkowski, Tim Wright, Steve Maneri
The tight position remains very light even with the addition of Tim Wright. Much of the question marks at the position revolved around Gronkowski’s health. Hooman’s health, or lack thereof, loses him his spot. Former Pats PS OL Steve Maneri has a shot to become this year’s Matthew Mulligan, strong blocker who gets two catches, one for a touchdown. He could be swapped out for an extra OL or RB.
Offense Roster Spots: 24
Defensive Line (10): Vince Wilfork, Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Sealver Siliga, Chris Jones, Dominique Easley (R), Zach Moore (R), Jerel Worthy, Michael Buchannan, Joe Vellano
The D-line will shuffle around a lot once everyone on the unit is healthy, which will be the key, getting and staying healthy. In addition, there is a lot of versatility available in this group, expect a lot of different looks from the Pats defensive front. With Tommy Kelly’s release this DL has gone through a major youth transition.
Linebackers (6): Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Darius Fleming, Steve Beauharnais, Ja’Gared Davis
What looked to be a top heavy unit has rounded out nicely in the last month as some dark horses in Fleming and Morris have stepped in and looked good in their playing time opportunities. After last night, whether serious or not, Patriots will probably try to stash James Morris on IR.
Safety (4): Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Patrick Chung, Nate Ebner
Tavon Wilson becomes the latest BB second round draft failure. He never had anything special going on with him and his instincts at the position have been poor his entire tenure. Head scratcher all the way. Chung has returned to New England on a cheap contract and basically offers the same thing he did before. Ebner gets the spot for his strong special teams work.
Cornerback (5): Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner*, Kyle Arrington, Logan Ryan, Alfonso Dennard, Malcolm Butler (R)
Malcolm Butler’s extremely strong preseason earns him a spot at least until Week 5 where the team will need to make a choice as Brandon Browner returns from suspension. This looks to be one of the strongest cornerback groupings the Patriots have had in a very long time.
Defense Roster Spots: 25
Special Teams (4): Stephen Gotskowski, Ryan Allen, Danny Aiken, Matthew Slater
*On suspension doesn’t count on the 53-man roster until Week 5