By: Steve Balestrieri
The New England Patriots have two pre-season games under their belts and while we must remind everyone that its only pre-season games, they’ve looked pretty impressive so far. A blow-out win over the woeful Jaguars was followed by another blowout over a much better Buccaneers team.
So with that in mind we bring you our Patriots 53 man roster projection 2.0. While there are still two pre-season games to go, 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 (5) – Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley, Sammy Morris (Kevin Faulk may wind up on the PUP for the first six weeks of the season) Sammy Morris gets the nod if they carry a fifth running back for short yardage and special teams. Vereen finally returned to practice today and will get the nod.
Wide Receivers (6) – Wes Welker, Chad Ochocinco, Deion Branch, Julian Edelman, Taylor Price, Matthew Slater No changes here. 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 hasn’t practiced since Aug. 3, so he can’t beat anyone out there.
Tight Ends (3) – Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Will Yeatman Yeatman has elevated his game and now gets the nod over Lee Smith. A lot of people were very impressed with Smith’s play in camp, but I found Yeatman much more so. One aspect to keep an eye out for is new TE Garrett Mills, who was here before. He could make the roster and bump his way into FB and STs duties and be another target at TE should Yeatman falter. With no practice squad eligibility, it’s either sink or swim for Mills.
Offensive Line (8) – Sebastian Vollmer, Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen, Matt Light, Nate Solder, Dan Connolly, Rich Ohrnberger, Steve Maneri Marcus Cannon begins the season on either PUP or IR while he recovers from cancer. But he is safe for this season. I think Ryan Wendell may be hurt worse than originally thought. It could be just coincidence, but the team had Nate Solder practicing at guard the other day…..things that make you hmm.
Defensive Line (10) – Vince Wilfork, Albert Haynesworth, Shaun Ellis, Jermaine Cunningham, Kyle Love, Myron Pryor, Gerard Warren, Andre Carter, Eric Moore, Mark Anderson, As we stated before while 10 DL is a lot to carry, Cunningham and Moore, can play OLB. Carter and Anderson can too, but have been ineffective in the past.
Carter was a force against Tampa’s starters, 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. A lot of people are questioning Belichick on why Haynesworth isn’t practicing. I believe they are just saving his legs for the regular season. That’s why as soon as he passed the conditioning test, they put him out on the field to see what kind of explosion, and how much left in the tank he still has. That was enough for them to see and we’ll see him on opening night.
Ron Brace and Mike Wright will find themselves the odd men out here. Brace hasn’t practiced at all and with this new group of DL, his only hope to stick is to go on IR. Same with Wright and Brandon Deaderick. Kade Weston is on the bubble here with Darryl Richard. Right now we have neither one making the cut but with Bill Belichick possibly not wanting the DL to get too old too fast, don’t rule either out just yet.
Linebackers (6) – Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Gary Guyton, Dane Fletcher, Rob Ninkovich, Tracy White White makes it on the basis of his STs play. Ninkovich has played well all camp. Ricky Brown didn’t have enough time to get acclimated to the defense, but don’t close the door on him just yet. Jeff Tarpinian gets bumped off of this one.
Cornerbacks (5) – Devin McCourty, Leigh Bodden, Kyle Arrington, Darius Butler, Ras-I Dowling Dowling finally returned to practice this week, Butler gets the nod over Jonathan Wilhite here. Opinions are mixed on who has played better in camp, Butler or Wilhite. I believe that Butler has so gets the nod.
Safeties (4) – Pat Chung, Brandon Meriweather, James Sanders, Sergio Brown Going with the same four for now, Sanders finally returned to practice this morning so he’ll get the nod over James Ihedigbo… for now but a lot will depend on his health.
Specialists (3) – Stephen Gostkowski (k), Zoltan Mesko (P), Matt Katula (LS)
Still think that they may opt for less running backs and go to 5 safeties in which case Ihedigbo would stay. We’ll see what happens this week in Detroit.
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