By: Steve Balestrieri
Quarterback (2) –*Tom Brady* (suspended Weeks 1-4), Jimmy Garoppolo, Matt Flynn
Right now, Tom Brady is suspended for the first four games and while Patriots Nation waits for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to make his decision on his appeal, he won’t count against the 53-man roster. That’s good news for Matt Flynn as he’ll back up Jimmy Garoppolo if Brady isn’t there to start the season.
Brady and Jimmy G. aren’t going anywhere and Flynn for the time being is a roster lock. In the unforeseen and very remote event that Goodell vacates Brady’s suspension, then look to Flynn being one of the final cuts in pre-season.
Running Backs (5) – *LaGarrette Blount* (suspended Week1), Brandon Bolden, James Develin, Jonas Gray, James White, Tyler Gaffney
Blount is suspended for Week 1, but other than he and Bolden, the field is open for competition. Blount is the big, bruiser for the first two downs as the between the tackles lead runner. Bolden can do a little of everything but is invaluable on special teams.
Develin can play FB, H-back and even a little tight end…so his slot may affect the number of tight ends kept on the roster. Gray and Gaffney are also candidates for the big back duties. Will three big backs be too many?
Another big question is who takes the place of Shane Vereen as the third down back. White (like last season), had a solid spring and was getting lots of looks in OTAs and mini-camp. Cadet and Lewis are also competing for that slot and it is wide open for someone to step up. Cadet has the most experience but hasn’t been asked to pass block much in the Saints system, where he played the past few seasons.
Out: Travaris Cadet, Dion Lewis
Tight End (4) – Rob Gronkowski, Scott Chandler, A.J. Derby, Michael Hoomanawanui
The team went with three tight ends down the stretch and in the Super Bowl for the 2014 season. With the addition of Scott Chandler, expect to see more of the “12” personnel grouping with 2 WRs, 2 TEs and a running back. Therefore they may opt to keep an extra TE to backup both Rob Gronkowski and Chandler.
Gronk remains the gold standard for TEs in the NFL. He enters 2015 with no questions about his health and coming off an impressive season as well as an outstanding playoff performance. Chandler gives the Patriots a twin presence at tight end that can attack the seams of the defense and provide mismatches with size and athleticism.
Hooman and the rookie Derby make it here, but Develin could factor in the decision and one of the two may find himself out if the coaches decide Develin can fill in at TE if needed.
Out: Jake Bequette, Jimmay Mundine
Wide Receiver (5) – Aaron Dobson, Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, Danny Amendola, Brian Tyms
The top three, Edelman, LaFell and Amendola, all return and give Brady plenty of options. Dobson and Tyms are locked into competition with final four for the final two slots. Gibson worked with OC Josh McDaniels in St. Louis and may push for one of the final two slots. Harper and Krause may be candidates for the practice squad. Boyce is entering Year 3 and is firmly on the bubble
Out: Brandon Gibson, Josh Boyce, Jonathan Krause, Chris Harper
Offensive Line (8) – Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Cameron Fleming, Marcus Cannon, Ryan Wendell, Bryan Stork, Tre Jackson, Shaq Mason
Solder and Vollmer are healthy to start the season and are a solid duo. Cannon and Fleming can either back them up as swing tackles or play guard. With Dan Connolly retired, the rookies Jackson and Mason will compete with Wendell for starting reps. Stork is solid at center and will improve in his second season. Wendell can slide back over in case of injury.
Out: Josh Kline, Caylin Hauptman, Jordan Devey, Chris Barker, David Andrews, Kevin Hughes
Next up the Defense…
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