Patriots 53 Man Roster Projection 2.0, Post Mini-Camp Edition

Steve Balestrieri
June 23, 2014 at 09:00am ET

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Tom Brady will be looking to get the Patriots offense untracked early in 2014. (USA TODAY Images)

Spring is over and so are the off-season workouts, OTAs and the mandatory spring three day Mini-camp that just concluded in Foxboro. With summer here, the players are off until the start of training camp and then football season goes full bore for the next seven months.

With that in mind here is a look at the: “53 Man Roster Projection 2.0 Post Mini-camp Edition ” We’ll break down the positions and take a look at how the players fit and performed in the spring and take a stab at an early Patriots roster for 2014.

Here’s a look at our first projection, done after the 2014 NFL Draft. Something to keep in mind is that these spring workouts were just that, with no pads and no contact. Therefore, several projections are subject to change, especially with the ever present threat of injury which crippled the Patriots roster in 2013. Next the Offense…

Stevan Ridley will be looking to rebound from a subpar 2013. (USA TODAY Images)

Quarterback - Tom Brady, Ryan MallettJimmy Garappolo The Patriots barring any injuries to Ryan Mallett or Jimmy Garappolo will enter the season with three quarterbacks on the roster. Brady looked sharp this spring, Mallett suffered an injury prior to mini-camp and worked out mainly in the bubble with the rehabbing players. That set the stage for Garappolo to share a lot of reps with Brady. His performance was what you expect from a rookie QB, some good, some bad. He has a long way to go, but he seemed to be fairly comfortable with the offense at this early juncture. He had a rough day throwing the ball when we saw him on Weds. of mini-camp but most of the errant throws seemed to be just a matter of timing, which can be rectified with more on-field work. So unless things really change in training camp, Mallett will remain Brady’s backup

Opening day roster – Brady, Mallett, Garappolo (3)

Running Backs – Stevan Ridley, Shane VereenJames WhiteBrandon Bolden, Jonas Gray, Stephen Houston, Roy Finch No major movement here, Ridley remains the bigger back in the running back by committee rotation. Both Houston and Finch are intriguing options and once the pads come on in July, could make some noise. Finch was used in the passing game during the spring and showed some flash.

White and Vereen in a two-back third down set could be another intriguing option, especially with the lack of depth at tight end. Bolden remains due to being a core special teamer. This group will bear much closer scrutiny once the pads come on, it is always tough to evaluate the running backs with no hitting on the line.

Opening day roster- Ridley, Vereen, White and Bolden (4)

Tight End – Rob Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanawanui, James Develin, D.J. WilliamsAsa Watson, Justin Jones Much of the production of this group will be tied to the health of Gronkowski, and he still hasn’t done much practicing yet but is rumored to be on slate for an early season return. Develin can play fullback, H-back or line up as a tight end and with the team not adding a veteran at the position gets the nod.

In the limited view we got to see the players on the field, Jones while a big target seems a bit stiff coming out of his breaks. If he can just post up in the red-zone he may still find himself an opportunity to carve out a role. With just three tight ends on the roster, we've probably seen the last of the two tight end looks for awhile.

Opening Day Roster- Gronkowski, Hooman, Develin (3)

Wide ReceiverAaron Dobson, Julian Edelman, Brandon Lafell, Danny Amendola, Josh Boyce, Kenbrell Thompkins, Jeremy Gallon, Jeremy Johnson, Reese Wiggins, Wilson Van Hooser

Dobson had off-season foot surgery so the outside “X” position was open for plenty of reps. Much like 2013 Thompkins stepped up and made the most of his opportunities. Boyce was having an outstanding spring until tweaking a knee and missed the final two days of mini-camp. Edelman and Amendola looked sharp in workouts. Health is of primary concern here as Amendola, Boyce, Dobson and Thompkins all had injuries that impacted the 2013 season. All will have to stay healthy in 2014 if they want to be difference makers as all struggled at times last season. Lafell is a big target that admittedly had trouble with the Patriots playbook early in the spring. With some extra time to nail it down, he'll bear watching early in camp to see if he's reaching a comfort level with quarterback Tom Brady.

Opening Day Roster- Dobson, Edelman, Lafell, Amendola, Boyce, Thompkins (6)

Offensive Tackle – Nate Solder, Sebastian VollmerCameron Fleming, Marcus Cannon, Jordan Devey No major changes here, Solder and Vollmer are back and working their way to being fully healthy. Fleming was just drafted and missed time due to the rules concerning college graduation. But he could be the swing tackle of 2014. Cannon is a versatile guy here, he could conceivably be either the back-up tackle or fight for a starting role as a guard.

Opening Day Roster- Solder, Vollmer, Cannon, Fleming (4)

Offensive Guard – Logan Mankins, Dan ConnollyJon Halapio, Josh Kline, Chris Barker Mankins returns and should be healthy this summer which is a good sign for the Pro-Bowler. With an eye toward the future, the team drafted Halapio, the tough guard from Florida. He got time at left guard as well as right(his natural position) this spring and is a lock due to his draft position.

The team is high on Kline and they also have Cannon who is versatile. Connolly could be the odd man out here and the team would save approximately $3 million in cap room if he is cut according to PatsCap.com. However one thing to keep in mind is that Connolly is healthy now also and had a good spring.

Opening Day Roster- Mankins, Halapio, Kline (3)

Center – Ryan WendellBryan Stork, Braxston Cave Stork, the 4th round draft pick from Florida St. is a lock, due to his draft position. Wendell will be pushed by Stork for the starter position and could win it outright in camp. If he doesn’t, they’ll keep both because he has the versatility to play guard in a pinch if need be. In which case the decision on whom they keep may come down to Wendell or Kline for the team.

Opening Day Roster – Stork (1) Total number Offense (24) Next the Defense…

[caption id="attachment_1923" align="aligncenter" width="600"] The Patriots need a healthy return of both Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly in 2014. (SBalestrieri/PatsFans photo)

Defensive End – Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Will Smith, Zach Moore, Jake Bequette, Michael Buchanan, Armond Armstead Jones and Ninkovich are solid starters who were overworked last season logging in more than 96 percent of the snaps each. They need help from a rotation of fresh legs and the team signed the aging but productive Smith from the Saints. If he can still play at a high level, he and Buchanan who is expected to make a 2nd year jump would spell them at times.

Moore is a project and will be expected to produce in 2015 if he flashes enough to stick in training camp. Armstead is an interesting case, having been seen less than a Yeti in Foxboro since signing last spring. Rumors of him still having blood-clotting issues related to his heart condition could likely spell the end of the line for him in New England or end up once again on the non-football injury list. This is still an area where a veteran defensive end could be added prior to and perhaps even during training camp.

Jason Babin was just released by the Jaguars and has been productive as an edge rusher. He's 34 though and may not be a fit for the Patriots defense having had most of his success as a "Wide 9" defensive end who was a liability in setting the edge.

Opening Day Roster – Jones, Ninkovich, Smith, Buchanan, Moore (5)

Defensive Tackle – Vince WilforkDominique Easley, Tommy Kelly, Chris Jones, Joe Vellano, Sealver Siliga, Marcus Forston, Seali’i Epenesa, L.T. Tuipulotu

Another position to watch in camp is defensive tackle as Wilfork, Kelly and Easley all work themselves back from serious injury. Wilfork seems close to ready and even a tad thinner than in years past. Kelly claims that he’s ready to go although the team took it slowly,  easing him back in with only a few reps in mini-camp. Easley made an appearance at the end of mini-camp and flashed the quickness he’s noted for. He's still wearing a protective sleeve covering his leg so his status will bear watching.

Siliga and Jones were thrust into starting roles last year and performed well. They will provide depth this summer if all of the above players are healthy. Vellano, who played well as a rookie in 2013, could be the odd man out here.

Opening Day Roster – Wilfork, Easley, Kelly, Siliga, Jones (5)

Linebacker - Jerod Mayo, Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Steven Beauharnais, Chris White James Anderson, Ja’Gared Davis, Josh Hull, Cameron Gordon, Darius Fleming, Taylor McCuller, Deontae Skinner

Mayo returns from a season-ending injury and he, Collins and Hightower are locked as the three starters. Anderson is a valuable addition as he’ll provide solid coverage in sub-packages. Collins thus far has the look of a player who is very comfortable now with the defense and his role and seems poised for a big breakout year. He even lined up as a tight end in one sequence ala Mike Vrabel.

Beauharnais looks like he’s ready to make a significant second year jump as he and White round out the roster among good camp competition.

Opening Day Roster – Mayo, Hightower, Collins, Anderson, Beauharnais, White (6)

Cornerback – Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington, Logan Ryan, Jemea Thomas, Daxton Swanson, Malcolm Butler, Justin GreenTravis Hawkins

This position is the deepest it has been in many years with the addition of Revis and Browner. And with the suspension of Browner for the first four games of the season it allows the Patriots to carry an extra CB on the roster. Swanson has stood out making plays all over the field in the spring. Can he do it once the pads come on? We’ll see... but for now Thomas gets the nod due to the ability to slide over to safety.

The big question will be who gets the starting nod for the first four games. Right now Ryan seems to be the easy choice as Dennard still hasn’t taken the field after having off-season shoulder surgery. But barring a series of injuries, this should be the most talented cornerback crew in the Bill Belichick era.

Opening Day Roster – Revis, Ryan, Dennard, Arrington, Thomas (5) **Browner on suspension**

Safety – Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, Patrick Chung, Nate Ebner, Kanorris Davis, Tavon WilsonShamiel Gary 

McCourty and Harmon are locks and right now are the two starters. Harmon looked very comfortable next to McCourty this spring and Chung was brought back this off-season for depth and ST’s experience. Ryan could play here once Browner returns in certain packages since their depth is thin. Thomas as well since both have positional versatility. Ebner is another core special teams’ player and nudges Wilson off the roster after two seasons.

Once Browner returns however, the team will have to make a decision on who stays or goes. Thomas with his positional versatility may push Ebner for a roster spot.

Opening Day Roster – McCourty, Harmon, Chung, Ebner (4) Total number Defense (25)** With Browner exemption  Next Special Teams…

Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski was very solid in 2013 and looked strong in spring workouts. (USA TODAY Images)

Specialists: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Danny Aiken, Tyler Ott, Matthew Slater

Gostkowski and Allen were an excellent tandem in 2013, and nothing changes there. Gostkowski was kicking 64 yard field goals in practice this week and having the distance. The only camp competition is at long snapper, and Aiken so far looked sharp. Slater is a special teams captain and a Pro-Bowler and he’s a lock.

Opening Day Roster – Gostkowski, Allen, Aiken, Slater (4) Offense 24, Defense 25,  Total Roster (53)

Stay tuned to PatsFans.com as we will bring you the latest news from Foxboro and keep you up to date on all the movements on the roster. We'll be at training camp every day once it kicks off  and bring you daily updates on what is happening when the pads come on. Be sure to check out all the new features on the main page, Ian's stat sheets as well as the best salary cap page around with Miguel.

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