The weeks of summer practice and preseason action continue to roll on and NFL coaches are closer to having to decide which players will fill out their rosters to open the regular season.
As is so often the case, predicting those rosters is a seemingly fruitless proposition. Injuries, trades and players coming available from other teams are all situations that can alter a battle at a given position.
But that doesn’t stop those of us in the media from taking a run at trying to figure out exactly how Bill Belichick will whittle things down to a 53-man team that will be ready to compete on opening day in Miami.
The first version of this roster projection was out of date mere hours after it was posted as both
Quarterback (3) –
Analysis: All three quarterbacks performed pretty well in the second week of preseason action. Garoppolo got the first backup reps and held his own, although there are times when he does look like a rookie. Mallett is certainly being pushed by the youngster, but at this point I can’t project Belichick to be comfortable enough to turn the only backup job over to the rookie.
Running back (5) –
Analysis: Lost fumble or not, Ridley put the ball on the ground to open up the discussion of his ball security concerns once again. Otherwise, Ridley ran well. Develin continues to impress as an athlete in the passing game, and Finch bounced back from his own loose ball problems to show up on offense and special teams. That’s enough to push me to add the diminutive rookie to the roster at the expense of another athlete –
Tight end (2) –
Analysis: While a lot has changed on the tight end depth chart over the last week – plenty of comings and goings – really nothing has changed. The only two NFL-caliber players the Patriots have at this point are the two injured veterans. The rest of the duties will have to go to Develin and the offensive linemen, or to another player who’ll be brought aboard later.
Wide receiver (6) –
Analysis: Dobson coming off PUP pushes him into the mix to open the season, even though he’s really done nothing to this point this summer. The top three receivers have been really strong over the last couple weeks. Thompkins remains a little inconsistent, but he’s clearly a major part of the mix. Tyms continues to impress and benefits, in a strange way, in that he won’t count on the roster for the first four weeks due to suspension. In this scenario Boyce is the odd-man out. I just haven’t seen enough from him to warrant sticking around – either as a receiver or a returner.
Offensive line (9) –
Analysis: The only change here, which adds a roster spot, is
Defensive line (10) –
Analysis: Easley coming off NFI makes him a lock to be on the roster and join this group. The breakdown here and at linebacker changes a bit if the team remains a 3-4 front, but the bodies don’t really change. The current injuries to Jones or Siliga might alter this spot, but hard to project that at this point. Vellano increases his value with decent action at both 3-4 end and nose tackle.
Linebacker (6) –
Analysis: The kicking game obviously plays a big role in linebacker roster spots. White really struggled on defense against the Eagles, but likely remains a core guy in the kicking game. Fleming seems to offer more value on defense, as an outside linebacker, than
Safety (4) –
Analysis: As much as I like
Cornerback (5) –
Analysis: Butler continues to shine in his increased reps against top competition. He seems almost like a lock at this point, at least until Browner becomes available after four games. The top four corners beyond Browner seemed to be pretty unbreakable.
Specialists (3) –
Analysis: Any intrigue with the specialists went out the window when Tyler Ott struggled against the Eagles and was subsequently released. There are things that clearly need to be cleaned up in all phases of the kicking game, but these three are the guys who need to make the adjustments as they are the guys who’ll be doing the job in the heat of Miami on opening day.
What do you think of our latest run at predicting the roster? Who made it who shouldn’t? Who’s missing? Let us know with a comment below!