Final 53-man Patriots roster projection

Let me start by saying I love the team this year. Top to bottom I can’t remember being more excited by the collection of talented, aggressive and physical football players on both sides of the ball.

Most especially worth noting are the collection of pass rushers. There are multiple guys that can get after the quarterback and that is so important in today’s NFL. It’s also something we’ve really lacked in recent years.

Without further ado, here’s who I see has still having a job with the Pats on Saturday:

QB (3) Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett

I have to admit I am somewhat disappointed by the performances of Hoyer and Mallet this preseason. Granted the protection wasn’t always great, and often times they were playing without top weapons, but right now I’m unsure I see a long term future for either player. Next off-season should be an interesting one. TFB is TFB yet again, but these years of him being in his prime are slowly trickling away. Enjoy it people!

RB (5) Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead, Brandon Bolden, Jeff Demps

I’m sure BB would’ve preferred it if Demps milked last night’s injury in front of the media a bit. He could really use a year to get back into football shape and gain some weight while learning the system. We’ll see how it plays out, but I wouldn’t totally rule out him being put on IR. If anyone is getting cut here I think it’s Vereen. Bolden is worth developing and adds an element the others don’t have. If Ridley gets dinged at any point it will get interesting to see how they overcome it. Woodhead should bounce back after injuries plagued him last year.

WR (5) Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Julian Edelman, Deion Branch, Matthew Slater

Remember when we brought in all those free agent wide receivers and no one knew how it would all play out? Well, sometimes you throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and almost all of it falls off. Ultimately Lloyd was the only addition that really mattered and he should make a big impact. But it’s hard not to think about how things will go if he gets hurt and we’re back to the exact same core that struggled to stretch the field last year. Gaffney could always come back, but it’s clear that the Pats really need to try to develop some wide receivers, especially if Welker walks next off-season.

TE (4) Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Visanthe Shiancoe, Daniel Fells

Keeping four tight ends is a late decision but I really think it’s in the best interest of protecting the kind of offense the Pats want to run. Hoodie forbid anything happens to Gronk but you need some in-line insurance for him. Fells and Shiancoe are different enough that both can be utilized.

C  (3) Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell, Dan Koppen

Koppen is on for now, but I really struggled with him. If Waters comes back by tomorrow it could very much make Koppen expendable. It’s hard to see them putting Connolly back to the interior utility guy, especially when Koppen can only play Center. Connolly needs to start, either at center or right guard. The wild card offensive line is: Solder-Mankins-Wendell-Connolly-Vollmer.

G  (3) Logan Mankins, Brian Waters, Donald Thomas

Donald Thomas sneaks on, but his fate could be tied to Waters as well. The Pats have a lot of depth on the interior of the line and how it will all play out is one of the most interesting storylines to keep an eye on tomorrow. I think Waters comes back, if he was going to retire it would’ve made sense to let the team know before now. I really think we’ll know on him in the next 24 hours.

T  (3) Sebastian Vollmer, Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon

Not in love with the depth here and if there’s one area I think we could see a random acquisition after cuts it’d be here. However there are lots of teams that need tackles so it might be a stretch to think we can get our paws on someone who’s legit. But I could easily see Weems or Kopa make it over one of the interior back ups or Koppen. I do think that Cannon still has real potential and could thrive in the third tackle spot.

DE (5) Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Trevor Scott, Jermaine Cunningham, Jake Bequette

Things look really promising with this group, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a random cut here, possibly Trevor Scott. I still wouldn’t close the door on Andre Carter either. Cunningham looks like he’s carved out at least a shot at a DPR/interior rusher and could possibly see some time at defensive end. Bequette would be a surprising cut, but I think he makes it but doesn’t see the 45-man gameday roster. Expect Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich to play a lot. That’s an excellent thing too. No longer is this a defense of specialization.

DT (5) Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick, Ron Brace, Justin Francis

Really solid group built entirely in house which deserves some credit. Francis is a defensive end but I think he makes it because he can shift inside and could make an impact on passing downs until Myron Pryor potentially returns. Love seems to be ascending and Deaderick flashed against the Giants. Brace is a wild card though, and seems the perfect physical fit for the kind of defense the Pats want to run. Wilfork is the most important piece and the Pats would be devastated to lose him for an length of time.

ILB(3) Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Niko Koutouvides

Tracy White just can’t get healthy and though he’s been inconsistent I really like Niko’s style of play. Spikes and Mayo should be dynamic this year.

OLB(2) Donta Hightower, Bobby Carpenter

Looks like Hightower will start right away at strong side linebacker giving the Pats a fearsome threesome of SEC linebackers. Carpenter can play multiple positions and special teams. He could play a significant role this year if injuries strike. The good news is that he’s experienced and smart.

CB (5) Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Ras-I Dowling, Sterling Moore, Marquice Cole

What surprises here! Ras-I didn’t get hurt in preseason! McCourty’s not playing safety any more! And Marquice Cole suddenly seems like a lock to make it. This group really needs to break out this year and prove that they can improve. There are still questions if they can play man to man though. On paper it makes sense that they should be better, but will they be?

SS (2) Patrick Chung, Tavon Wilson

If Patchung misses the opener I’m really going to be bummed out. Regardless he has a lot to prove this year if he wants any kind of sizable contract next off-season. He hasn’t gotten off to a great start with another injury already. Either way it looks like Tavon Wilson is going to play a lot for us this year and I really like his calm steadying presence so far. It’s impressive for a rookie. Especially one that no one had heard of when we drafted him.

FS (2) Steve Gregory, Nate Ebner

Gregory has been everything the Pats lacked last year, a centerfield deep safety who can keep everyone on the same page on the back end. He’s been impressive so far, and I still don’t think we truly know how the Pats plan on using him. Ebner has been one of the most lovable new Patriots. He plays like a madman and looks like a flawless tackling machine. Add in that he’s always around the ball and it’s hard not to glow over his potential. He’s consistently stood out, and despite some inconsistency it actually looks like he could see some time on defense. Not bad for a rugby guy, eh?

ST (3) Stephen Gostkowski, Danny Aiken, Zoltan Mesko

Only thing I’d look out for here is a return of Lonie Paxton. Greg Bedard hasn’t loved Aiken’s snaps in preseason and we know BB won’t hesitate to jettison a long snapper who’s inconsistent. Paxton was super consistent for many years here and he’s available.

Total players: 53
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