Patriots 53-man roster projection, version 4.0: Some positions coming into focus

WEEI
August 18, 2019 - 10:31 pm
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The second Patriots preseason game is in the books and based on playing time/who played with who, some insight can be gained on where certain players stand on the depth chart.

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Also, the addition of Josh Gordon certainly shook things up as well.

The Patriots have a short week before hosting the Panthers in the third preseason game Thursday, so before the team gets going, here's Patriots writers Andy Hart and Ryan Hannable latest 53-man roster projections.

(Click here to see version 3.0.)

QUARTERBACK (3): Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham (AH)
QUARTERBACK (3): Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham (RH)

Neither Hoyer nor Stidham was nearly as impressive in Tennessee as a week earlier in Detroit. Both have had solid summers, overall, on the practice and game fields. Is there an outside chance Bill Belichick goes with just the rookie to back up Brady? Sure. But it still doesn’t feel likely at this point. (AH)

While ideally Bill Belichick would like to carry only two quarterbacks like he usually does, it’s just looking too difficult to cut Hoyer at the moment. Stidham has done just fine for himself, but not enough to feel fully comfortable with just Brady and Stidham on the roster. An argument could be made that Hoyer would go unclaimed and could just stay in the Foxboro area, but for now he’s on the roster. (RH)

RUNNING BACK (6): Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, James Develin (AH)
RUNNING BACK (6): Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, James Develin (RH)

With Harris putting forth an impressive debut in Tennessee, including showing he could catch the football, this feels like an overloaded backfield depth chart. But aside from an injury or a surprise involving Burkhead (who would carry a $2 million dead cap hit), it would seem the entirety of this group gets the call for the regular season. (AH)

This is the most set position on the entire roster. It was nice to see Harris get his first extended action of the summer Saturday against the Titans and he did well for himself. It seems catching passes out of the backfield has been a point of emphasis for Michel and Harris, as the Patriots want their backs to be as versatile as possible. (RH)

TIGHT END (2): Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo (AH)
TIGHT END (2): Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo (RH)

With each successive week the tight end situation gets more muddied, not clearer, especially with Benjamin Watson suspended the first four games. LaCosse is dealing with an injury but remains the most likely top option for September. Eric Saubert is a late possibility in the mix as a trade addition. At this point it wouldn’t surprise me if Belichick kept three – pretty much any three – or kept just one. We’ll stick with the safest two, for now. (AH)

Who really knows at this point. LaCosse suffered an ankle injury against the Lions and hasn’t been on the field since. He may not even be ready to open the season, but the Patriots just have no one standing out at this position. Making matters even worse is Benjamin Watson being suspended the first four games. Any one of Izzo, Lance Kendricks, Eric Saubert, Stephen Anderson and Andrew Beck could make the team. Also, don’t discount the possibility of a trade being swung for a player at this position. (RH)

WIDE RECEIVER (7): Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, N’Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, Braxton Berrios, Matthew Slater (AH)
WIDE RECEIVER (7): Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Josh Gordon, Jakobi Meyers, Braxton Berrios, Matthew Slater (RH)

Gordon’s reinstatement is a boon for this position and Brady’s passing attack. Even though we stick with seven, Flash pushes veteran Maurice Harris off the list. Harris had a strong start to his first Patriots camp, but since has shown some inconsistency and got banged up. Meyers has made himself a lock as probably the most consistent guy in the mix when you include practice and preseason action. Berrios’ spot is as much about a likely return role as anything else. It wouldn’t be too surprising here if either Berrios or Dorsett ($500k dead cap) didn’t make the cut, maybe even both. Demaryius Thomas remains in the picture at some point, as he’s currently on PUP. (AH)

This position received a boost this week when Gordon was reinstated, but there are still a lot of question marks, especially from a health perspective (Edelman, Harry and Dorsett). This benefits Berrios as he got the last spot even though he hasn’t really stood out much. Maurice Harris was a tough cut, but he’s slowed down after a good start to training camp and suffered an injury during Wednesday’s practice against the Titans. This is far from set and things could change over the next several weeks (RH)

OFFENSIVE LINE (8): Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Ted Karras, Cole Croston, Hjalte Froholdt (AH)
OFFENSIVE LINE (8): Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Isaiah Wynn, Ted Karras, Dan Skipper, Hjalte Froholdt (RH)

With Wynn now on the field and showing his potential at left tackle, Dante Scarnecchia’s group is coming together. The remaining questions are about the backup spots. Here we’d go with Karras over James Ferentz every time on the interior. Things aren’t as obvious on the outside, where Dan Skipper has had his ups and downs but has some potential as a swing tackle. Now that he’s healthy and back on the roster, we’ll go with Croston thanks to his experience in the system. (AH)

This position got more clarity this week. It seems the plan is for Wynn to be the starting left tackle and Skipper the swing tackle, unless the team really likes Cole Croston. This means the only spot really left to be settled is the backup interior spot. If needed, Karras could do it alone, but it wouldn’t make sense to cut Froholdt after being selected in the fourth round. He seems like a year-long project for Dante Scarnecchia. It’s been a tough preseason for James Ferentz, thus not making it worth keeping him around. Yodney Cajuste is also worth mentioning as the rookie is on NFI and not ready to start the season. (RH)

DEFENSIVE LINE (9): Michael Bennett, Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise, Mike Pennel, John Simon, Adam Butler, Chase Winovich, Derek Rivers, Danny Shelton (AH)
DEFENSIVE LINE (8): Deatrich Wise, Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Michael Bennett, Shilique Calhoun, Danny Shelton, John Simon, Chase Winovich (RH)

Injuries of late to Rivers and Shilique Calhoun bring a little more uncertainty to this group. It would seem to come down to a couple questions with the edge players and whether Shelton is worth a roster spot as a backup on the inside. For now we’ll stick with the same nine guys, but leave the door open for Calhoun and Shelton to swap spots. Byron Cowart is also making a strong run at a roster spot. (AH)

There were a few changes here with Calhoun being added and taking off Adam Butler and Derek Rivers. Calhoun has seen a lot of time with the first team and while he was injured Saturday, he told reporters afterwards he would be OK. Butler hasn’t stood out all that much this summer and while it’s tough to keep only three true defensive tackles, there is some versatility with others. Derek Rivers was also a tough cut, but the decision could be easier depending on the nature of his injury suffered Saturday against the Titans. Trent Harris and Byron Cowart were also tough cuts, but are candidates to stick around on practice squad. (RH)

LINEBACKER (6): Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Jamie Collins, Brandon King, Elandon Roberts (AH)
LINEBACKER (6): Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Elandon Roberts, Brandon King (RH)

This group is a little like the running back situation. Are there too many bodies? Maybe, but which one are you willing to part with? The top four guys are locks. King is a proven core special teams guy (who signed an extension in May and would have $1 million in dead cap money) and Roberts is an experienced, trusted backup. Unless there is a trade or injury consideration, six roster spots are filled by this pretty impressive group. (AH)

No changes here with almost all the players being locks to make the team. Roberts feels like the only one who isn’t. He would be competing with Christian Sam and Calvin Munson for that spot, but as of now he’s safe. (RH)

CORNERBACK (5): Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Jonathan Jones (AH)
CORNERBACK (5): Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, Joejuan Williams (RH)

While tight end doesn’t have enough bodies, the cornerback position has been the toughest to project all summer thanks to a surplus of talent. It’s the most likely position to target for a trade given that New England could claim to have six-plus capable NFL players. Could that be Jones and his RFA tender leaving town? Or giving up on 2018 second-round pick Duke Dawson? Something has to give and Belichick has never cut a second-round pick in his second season, but right now these appear to be the top five cornerback options. Keion Crossen also remains a wild card. (AH)

This is one of the most competitive positions on the entire roster and it was tough to cut 2017 second-round pick Duke Dawson, but he just hasn’t shown much to this point. He’s been up-and-down all summer and it’s worth noting he’s even seen some time at safety. He did have his best practice in a long, long time last Thursday in Nashville, but there are just too many good players around him. Do not be surprised if the team trades a player at this position, either. (RH)

SAFTEY (4): Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Terrence Brooks (AH)
SAFETY (5): Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Terrence Brooks, Nate Ebner (RH)

As late August rolls around, the safety position appears to be settling in nicely. The only question here is whether Nate Ebner – with a cap hit of nearly $3 million and dead option of $600k – makes the cut after coming off PUP. Despite some rumblings that Harmon could be a surprise cut, the veteran is working on adding value as a backup at strong safety and still seems like a solid bet. Brooks brings the type of defensive versatility and core special teams value that makes Ebner expendable. (AH)

Ebner was our last player to make the team, as it just seems Belichick has a soft spot for the special teamer. This could change, but right now we see him making the team. Obi Melifonwu has seen a lot of action this summer, but hasn’t made enough plays. It’s worth noting Harmon has spent time with the second team and even played in the games, but we don’t see it impacting his roster spot. (RH)

SPECIALISTS (3:) Stephen Gostkowski, Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona (AH)
SPECIALISTS (3): Stephen Gostkowski, Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona (RH)

Gostkowski has already missed two field goals this summer, but he and Cardona have no competition. The punting battle could go down to the wire, but Bailey’s strong leg, hang time and ability to kick off are just too much to overlook. (AH)

Ryan Allen has his work cut out for him to make the team, as Bailey has come on strong the last few weeks. The only negative has been Gostkowski has missed two kicks with Bailey holding. We still like the rookie to make the team over Allen, though. (RH)

Related: Patriots WR Dontrelle Inman released, which opens roster spot for Josh Gordon