Monday, August 24, 2015

Patriots Roster Projection

After two preseason games, it's time to take a look at who will make up the 53-man roster to start the season for the Patriots when they take the field at Gillette Stadium on September 10 against the Steelers.

This projection actually has 55 players included.  That is due to the on-going uncertainty over Tom Brady's possible four-game suspension and the one-game suspension that will have running back LeGarrette Blount on the sidelines for the Steelers game.

Injuries also make this projection difficult. Bill Belichick has always operated by the mantra of "You can't make the club from the tub" but it's nearly impossible to believe that the likes of Brandon LaFell or Ryan Wendell - who are both currently on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list - will be roster casualties.  However, third year receiver Aaron Dobson, who has been shit down by a balky hamstring, might not be so lucky.

Quarterback (3) - Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Ryan Lindley

Lindley will be released, either when Brady's suspension is overturned by Judge Richard Berman or when it runs out after Week 4.

Garoppolo has looked good in two preseason appearances and if Brady does have to sit out four games, Patriots fans should feel confident that the team can get off to a good start with the second-year man from Eastern Illinois at quarterback.

Running Back (6) - LeGarrette Blount, Jonas Gray, Brandon Bolden, James White, Dion Lewis, James Develin

Blount's return after the Steelers game should not impact this position group.  Lewis gets the nod over Travaris Cadet due to Cadet missing so much time with injury.

Tight End (4) - Rob Gronkowski, Scott Chandler, Michael Hoomanawanui, Asante Cleveland

Keeping four tight ends might be a reach but offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels likes using three tight ends at once so having depth at this position is critical.

Wide Receiver (6) - Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Brandon LaFell, Aaron Dobson, Chris Harper, Matthew Slater

This group has fought through a multitude of injuries during the preseason and is difficult to project.  Brandon Gibson would have made this list if it was made on Friday but his knee injury on Saturday against the Saints is probably too much for him to over come with Edelman, LaFell, and Dobson also fighting injuries. Reggie Wayne is in Foxboro and has been signed so he could likely bump Dobson or Harper.

Offensive Line (9) - Nate Solder, Ryan Wendell, Bryan Stork, Tre' Jackson, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, Cam Fleming, Shaq Mason, David Andrews

Wendell remains on the PUP list and if that doesn't change, Josh Kline is likely to start the season on the active roster.  Kline could make the cut over undrafted rookie free agent Andrews if Wendell gets healthy over the next two weeks but I project Andrews to make the team for now.

Defensive Line (9) - Malcolm Brown, Dominique Easley, Alan Branch, Sealver Siliga, Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Geneo Grissom, Trey Flowers

While the massive presence of Vince Wilfork will be missed on and off the field, his departure marks a new era for the line. There is great versatility in this group and it should excel at stopping the run and getting after opposing quarterbacks.

Linebacker (5) - Jamie Collins, Dont'a Hightower, Jerod Mayo, Jonathan Freeny, James Morris

Veteran Dane Fletcher will likely start the year on PUP, creating opportunities for Freeny and Morris.  Collins and Hightower are on the verge of being perennial Pro Bowlers while Mayo hopes to rebound from two straight seasons lost to injury to make this a potent positional group.

Cornerback (5) - Malcolm Butler, Tarell Brown, Logan Ryan, Robert McClain, Bradley Fletcher

Due to the departures of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, there is no other group with more pressure entering the season than at cornerback.  With All-Pro safety Devin McCourty getting reps at corner against the Saints on Saturday, it seems like Belichick is not comfortable with what he has on the roster right now. A wrist injury looks like it will land intriguing rookie Darryl Roberys on injured reserve and a trade at some point to add a more established player would not come as a surprise.  

Safety (5) - Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards, Tavon Wilson

McCourty will have a tough job of having to cover the middle of the field with unproven corners on the outside.  In this projection, Wilson makes the cut over special teams standout Nate Ebner.

Specialists (3) - Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona

Gostkowski is one of the NFL's premiere kickers.  Allen is an above average punter. Cardona is a rookie long snapper so there will be some focus on his performance early on in the season.

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