Patriots 53-Man Roster Projection: Preseason Week 3 Edition

With the release of three veterans I thought would make the team in my earlier projections, some real estate has been opened up for even more of a youth movement than expected this season.

I still think there will be more additions, at least at tight end, maybe at defensive end as well. 

One big takeaway from the cuts of Will Smith, Tommy Kelly and James Anderson is that it looks like the Pats are truly ready to get away from using two space-eating defensive tackles, or really any resemblance to the 3-4 of old.

Kelly was irreplaceable in terms of the potential schematic flexibility he could give. Safe bet we now see a base nickel defense with a space-eater (Wilfork/Siliga) and a one-gapping DT (Jones/Vellano/Easley/Worthy).

QB (2) Brady, Garoppolo - I’ve taken Mallett off, I’ve seen enough of Garoppolo to think he would be okay and a much better fit if he got thrown into the fire as a rookie. Mallett has shown limited improvement and would require a full tweak of the offense.

RB (5) Ridley, Vereen, White, Develin, Bolden - Bolden slips on here, good versatile group even if there’s not a short-yardage ace. Mike Reiss speculated Ridley could be in trouble after a brief Game 3 appearance, I’m not ready to cut him yet, he’s still their most physical ball carrier.

WR (6) Edelman, Thompkins, Amendola, LaFell, Dobson, Slater - This seems like the group.

TE (2) Gronkowski, Hoomanawanui - Pencil in an addition here, I’ve even left them a roster spot.

C (2) Wendell, Stork - Maybe Stork develops over the season, but Wendell/Connolly starting makes the most sense.

G (3) Mankins, Connolly, Kline - Kline could see a lot of time this year as a swing backup, might even push Connolly back to center. Could also play some tight end.

T (4) Solder, Vollmer, Cannon, Fleming - athletic, versatile group that could see a touchdown catch this year playing tight end in jumbo goalline packages.

DE (4) Jones, Ninkovich, Buchanan, Moore - Not sold Moore isn’t headed to the PS, but for now this spot it his. Could go to a vet pickup. Is Buchanan ready to be a significant rotational DE? Huge question now that Smith is gone. Bequette still could sneak on because of lack of depth, but right now I think it’d be Moore.

DT (6) Wilfork, Easley, Jones, Siliga, Worthy, Vellano - Vellano and Worthy get a bump with Kelly/Smith gone.

LB(6) Hightower, Beauharnais, White, Mayo, Collins, Fleming - Morris and Davis go to the PS, while Fleming carves out a rotational role. Mayo/Collins don’t leave the field, Hightower rotates in a number of roles (Incl. pass rusher?).

CB (5) Revis, Arrington, Dennard, Butler, Ryan - deepest group in a while.

SS (2) Chung, Ebner - Chung expected to see time on early downs. Still wouldn’t mind keeping Tavon Wilson here considering Chung’s injury history.

FS (2) McCourty, Harmon - These two are the deep shell. McCourty won’t leave the field.

ST (3) Gostkowski, Allen, Aiken - Same as it ever was.

SUSPENDED - Browner, Tyms

Total players: 52 - (space for one external addition)
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(Low)lights: Patriots vs. Panthers 2013

This was a great game despite the results (i.e. the controversial finish). I try not to complain about losing a game on a non-call but this one was pretty blatant, as much as I love Kuechly as a player.

Should be a great test for the Pats tonight! But of course, most importantly, NO INJURIES!!!

New Patriots Pump-up Video mixes continue to pop up! I’m certainly not complaining, we’re just 17 days from the return of Pats football!!

Oh my damn, @CelticsPatriotsman is back at it with a new video!

NFL Films: 2013 New England Patriots Yearbook

Always a yearly must-watch. You know, if the NFL really wanted to make money, which of course is about all they want to do, they should package these yearbooks in DVD sets.

They’ve gotten it down to science - they can make a 1-15 team seem like they had one of the best years in the NFL, or maybe I’ve just been watching Patriots yearbooks for too long.

Pats Posits: Thoughts on a solid preseason showing vs. Eagles

The New England Patriots had a solid showing in their second preseason game of the 2014 summer as the roster battles continue to take shape. Here are some quick-hit thoughts on what stuck out to me.

- Brady is still Brady.

- Hard for a rookie quarterback to be much more impressive than Garoppolo has been in his first two starts. Yes, there’s still a ways for him to go, but his quick release and good decision making continue to shine. He’s an excellent fit for the Patriots’ offensive philosophy.

- All of the Pats’ running backs had their moments, and while I could see them using primarily a three-man rotation of Ridley-Vereen-White, Bolden, Finch and even Jonas Grey made cases for a roster spot with their skillsets.

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2014 New England Patriots Pump Up

Now this is how you start off a Monday! Thanks to @PatriotsSB49 for the find!

Best of the Week in PatsPropaganda

Welcome back to an in-season feature we did last year, linkage to the best Patriots reads of the week. So if you missed anything you can enjoy your Saturday breakfast while you catch up. 

Here’s the best of the week…

PatsPropaganda - Will Revis’ biggest impact for the Pats be on Brady?

ESPNBoston - Pats rookie report

Instagram Video: Revis pick sixes Brady

PatsPropaganda - Week One Regroup

Frenz/Boston.com - Rooks and vets coming together in secondary

Chris Price/WEEI - Secondary worked together in Arizona this offseason

PatsPropaganda - Is Brady to blame for playoff failures?

ProJo - Law and Revis are from the same hometown

Iron Sharpens Iron: Will Revis’ biggest impact for Pats be on Brady?

There’s no secret that the New England Patriots defense hasn’t been stellar in recent years.

They’ve certainly had their moments - 2011’s squad with a healthy Andre Carter and Mark Anderson generating the kind of pass rush the Pats have lacked since the late-2000’s. And in 2012/2013, Aqib Talib gave them their first shutdown man-to-man corner since Ty Law.

But the sum of those parts never quite added up to a top-10 defensive unit, usually due in part to injuries. They flash at times, but most often the Patriots won in spite of their defense, not because of them.

I’ve often joked that Tom Brady and the offense must just march up and down the field on the Patriots defense in practice. Especially when you consider the things the Pats defense wasn’t good at - defending the middle of the field, stopping tight ends and running backs - are very much the strengths of the Pats offense in recent years.

But this year the reports out of camp are that the defense is challenging Brady in a way not seen in a long time in Foxboro.

There’s been plenty of speculation of what the acquisitions of Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis, along with the maturation of various other young pieces like Chandler Jones, Devin McCourty and Dont’a Hightower, will mean for the Pats’ competition. But their biggest impact might be for the Patriots offense.

We wrote about it earlier this week and there’s little debate that Brady hasn’t quite had his best outings against the better defenses in the playoffs the last few years.

Could it be that the Patriots defense just hasn’t been able to provide enough of a challenge lately to force Brady to the absolute top of his game?

He certainly was pushed by the veteran dynasty defense in the early-2000’s, so perhaps this could result in more performances like we saw out of Brady in 2004’s AFC Championship, when he cut through a very tough Steelers defense in Pittsburgh like warm butter.

It might be a stretch, but early in camp it’s apparent that Brady hasn’t seen this kind of consistent challenge in practice day after day in a long time. 

Perhaps this is just what Brady and the Pats need to get over the hump against the best defenses.