Patriots Roster: Who Makes the Cut?
By Karen Guregian
FOXBORO -- The Patriots are a little more than a week into training
camp, and less than a week from playing in their first preseason game, as they host the Redskins next Thursday at Gillette Stadium.
With seven practices in the books, Bill Belichick has a much better idea how his roster is going to look next month. NFL teams need to pare their current rosters, which have 90 players, to 53 on Sept. 1 by a 4 p.m. deadline.
Thus far the Pats have had to deal with injuries that will impact that roster in the early going with several players likely starting on the PUP list, as well as Julian Edelman serving a four-game suspension.
Given that, here’s our first crack at projecting the 53-man roster:
Making the team: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer
Falling short: Danny Etling
Our take: The only issue here is whether or not to keep Danny Etling on the roster. In our view, there’s no need to use a spot. They can likely get him through waivers and put him on the practice squad. Etling hasn’t been terrible, but he has a long way to go to even be mentioned as a backup. The best avenue for him is on the practice squad. Tom Brady didn’t look particularly sharp early, but the 41-year-old has started to crank it into gear. Brian Hoyer, meanwhile, is locked in as the No. 2.
RUNNING BACK (5)
Making the team: James White, Rex Burkhead, Jeremy Hill, Sony Michel, Brandon Bolden
Falling short: Mike Gillislee, Ralph Webb
Our take: The team is hoping rookie first-round pick Sony Michel emerges from the pack, and basically takes on Dion Lewis’ role from last year as the lead back. We’ve seen flashes of his ability during camp, but if he can’t get a handle on his fumbling problem, he won’t see the field. The real competition for a final spot looks to be between Jeremy Hill and Mike Gillislee. Right now, Hill edges out Gillislee, who has trouble staying healthy. He just got back on the field Thursday wearing a red non-contract jersey.
Making the team: James Develin
Falling short: Henry Poggi
Our take: Develin is practically an automatic. As one of the best fullbacks in the NFL, he’s been an important member of the running game as a lead blocker. He also has some versatility, catching passes out of the backfield, or lining up as a tight end. His presence in the locker room is something that also makes him quite valuable. Henry Poggi, a late addition to the 90-man roster, was just signed Wednesday. He’s a rookie free agent.
WIDE RECEIVER (6)
Making the team: Julian Edelman (suspended), Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Kenny Britt, Eric Decker, Cordarrelle Patterson, Matthew Slater
Falling short: Braxton Berrios, Malcolm Mitchell, Devin Lucien, Paul Turner
Our take: Julian Edelman, who will be serving a four-game PED suspension, technically won’t count for a roster spot during that time period. Kenny Britt has yet to practice but he seems close enough that he’ll be off the PUP list soon. He looked great in mini-camp before suffering a hamstring injury. They signed Eric Decker Wednesday, so he’ll likely make it. Phillip Dorsett, meanwhile, looks like he’ll make more of an impact his second year. As for Cordarrelle Patterson, he’s been a highlight reel so far. With his speed, they’ll be plenty of gadget plays in store for him. Riley McCarron and rookie Braxton Berrios have been mostly involved as special teams returners. If Britt stays on the PUP list, McCaron makes it. If not, both he and Berrios are practice squad candidates. They’re tough cuts because they’ve been returning punts which is important in Edelman’s absence. Malcolm Mitchell doesn’t appear to be sticking around.
TIGHT END (3)
Making the team: Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister
Falling short: Will Tye, Ryan Izzo
Our take: Rob Gronkowski gushed over the tight end group during his press session Wednesday and with good reason. It is a decent bunch. While some think Dwayne Allen and his $5 million salary might be slashed, he’s still valuable as a blocker and still ahead of Will Tye at this stage. Jacob Hollister is ready to take on a bigger role in the offense, while Gronk is also poised to have a monster season. Still waiting to see if he gets paid. His agent Drew Rosenhaus was in the house Thursday.
OFFENSIVE LINE (8)
Making the team: Trent Brown, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Isaiah Wynn, LaAdrian Waddle, Ted Karras
Falling short: Cole Croston, Luke Bowanko, James Ferentz, Ulrick John, Jason King, Brian Schwenke, Matt Tobin
Our take: Maybe you go with nine and have extra bodies with several of the starters coming off injuries, but eight seems safe enough at the start. The final spot came down to a choice between Ted Karras and Cole Croston. Karras got the nod because he’s been the backup center. Veteran Brian Schwenke was added earlier this week. We haven’t seen enough of him to bump any of the usual backups just yet. Trent Brown has looked terrific at left tackle. Rookie Isaiah Wynn is clearly with the second group. Next up is game action.
DEFENSIVE END (4)
Making the team: Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise Jr., Adrian Clayborn, Derek Rivers
Falling short: Eric Lee, Geneo GrissomTrent Harris
Our take: Deatrich Wise Jr. has been a stud thus far, and is making a case to start opposite Trey Flowers. Adrian Clayborn hasn’t shown much, but he sticks for now. Eric Lee had some good moments last season, but he’s the odd man out along with Geneo Grissom.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE (4)
Making the team: Danny Shelton, Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler
Falling short: John Atkins, Keionta Davis, Frank Herron, Vincent Valentine
Our take: The Patriots want to be more stout up front and sturdier against the run. Danny Shelton is the new face and should help in that department. It’ll be interesting to see how Malcom Brown, in the final year of a contract, responds. Keionta Davis and Vincent Valentine were tough cuts. Shelton makes the latter expendable.
Making the team: Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Marquis Flowers, Elandon Roberts, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Nicholas Grigsby, Brandon King
Falling short: Harvey Langi, Christian Sam
Our take: This was the one of the toughest groups. Couldn’t keep both rookie linebackers. Christian Sam is a practice squad candidate. Also had to decide between Nicholas Grigsby and Harvey Langi. Went with Grigsby because he was so good on special teams last year, and Belichick really values that phase of the game.
Making the team: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner, Eddie Pleasant
Falling short: Jordan Richards, A.J. Moore, Damarius Travis
Our take: The Big Three with Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon are a given. Nate Ebner is another special teams stalwart. We’re figuring veteran Pleasant, who played at Oregon with Chung, bumps Jordan Richards this time out. Damarius Travis has made some plays. He just can’t make it in this group.
Making the team:
Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Duke Dawson, Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson
Falling short: Ryan Lewis, Keion Crossen, Jomal Wiltz
Our take: This assumes both Jonathan Jones (foot) and Cyrus Jones (knee) start the year on PUP. That’s where they currently sit. That will allow a couple spots. The tough decision comes down to Ryan Lewis or J.C. Jackson. Lewis has been very good of late, but we went with Jackson, the undrafted free agent out of Maryland. He was terrific in minicamp, and has been in the second pairing with Jason McCourty. Keion Crossen, meanwhile, has had a tough time staying on the field.
Making the team: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona
Falling short: Corey Bojorquez
Our take: With no competition at kicker and long snapper, Stephen Gostkowski and Joe Cardona are self-explanatory. The punters, however, are a different story. This one is a legitimate battle. At this stage, we’ll stick with the incumbent, Ryan Allen. It’s hard to unseat him without watching how Corey Bojorquez fairs in an actual game. There’s no question he has a big leg, but how will it translate when the lights go on? Bojorquez finally got some work as a holder for Gostkowski in game-type situations in practice Thursday. He looked fine.