By: Steve Balestrieri
With training camp well under way and one pre-season game in the books and another set to kick off in two days, it’s time for the first of the 53 man Roster projections for the 2011 New England Patriots.
These projections are bound to change because of the invariable injuries that always occur during training camp, but based on what we’ve seen to date, this is the team we’d field if the season started today.
Quarterbacks (3) – Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett
Running Backs (4) – Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley (Kevin Faulk may still end up here if they carry a fifth or may wind up on the PUP for the first six weeks of the season)
Wide Receivers (6) – Wes Welker, Chad Ochocinco, Deion Branch, Julian Edelman, Taylor Price, Matthew Slater Forget the nonsense of cutting Ocho in the pre-season when they just forked over $4.5 million, he’ll be here on opening day. Brandon Tate is the odd man out here, with kickoff returns de-valued because of the new rules, Price beats him out for the WR slot. Slater’s coverage skills land him a slot on STs. Tate may go to IR and get one more shot next year. Can’t win a slot in the trainer’s room.
Tight Ends(3) – Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Lee Smith The Pats have invested in Smith with a draft pick, but by no means close the door on Will Yeatman. Either he or Smith may get “injured” and placed on IR for next season.
Offensive Line (8) – Sebastian Vollmer, Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen, Matt Light, Nate Solder, Dan Connolly, Rich Ohrnberger, Ryan Wendell Marcus Cannon begins the season on either PUP or IR while he recovers from cancer. But he is safe for this season.
Defensive Line (11) – Vince Wilfork, Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis, Jermaine Cunningham, Kyle Love, Myron Pryor, Mike Wright, Andre Carter, Eric Moore, Mark Anderson, Rob Ninkovich While 11 DL is a lot to carry, Cunningham, Moore, Ninkovich can all play OLB. Carter and Anderson can too, but have been ineffective in the past. Carter is poised for a big year. With Haynesworth and Wilfork eating up double teams inside, it will leave him single covered and he should have a big season coming off the edge. Ron Brace will find himself the odd man out here. He’s been hurt a lot and with this new group of DL, his only hope to stick is to go on IR. Ninkovich noses out Gerard Warren on his ability to play DE or OLB
Linebackers (5) – Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Gary Guyton, Dane Fletcher, Jeff Tarpinian Tarpinian noses out Tracy White for the final slot on STs, Markell Carter will have to try to sneak through waivers to the practice squad and get stronger with the strength and conditioning program.
Cornerbacks (5) – Devin McCourty, Leigh Bodden, Kyle Arrington, Darius Butler, Ras-I Dowling Unless Dowling gets on the field soon, he may too find himself on IR and Jonathan Wilhite may again find himself on the roster.
Safeties (4) – Pat Chung, Brandon Meriweather, James Sanders, Sergio Brown This position is still in flux right now. Sanders is still hurt and hasn’t practiced. The coaches are not happy with Meriweather’s play, bringing in greybeards Darren Sharper and Renaldo Hill, even giving Brown first team reps yesterday during practice. Nope, this position is far from locked up. Not when Buddy Farnham is leading the way with INTs.
Specialists (3) – Stephen Gostkowski (k), Zoltan Mesko (P), Matt Katula (LS)
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