Piggybacking on the entry posted previously by colleague Mike Rodak answering 'Why?' on a trio of aspects to his 53-man projection, here's my take on three hot-button issues brought up in relation to my own projection:
1) Why no Brandon Deaderick? Safe to say this is an omission that raised eyebrows, but don't think it was a decision I made without careful consideration. The Patriots look ready to move to a four-man defensive front that features speed off the edge coupled with stout interior run defense. The primary concern I have with Deaderick is that I don't see him as a particularly effective edge rusher, and he's not the interior presence of others, led by Vince Wilfork. Deaderick flashes impressive skills that remind you why he was an effective player at times during both his rookie and sophomore season, but consistency is the issue. The spot essentially boiled down to keeping Deaderick or Ron Brace, who is now sidelined after a strong start to camp. For now, Brace remains in the mix.
2) Why no Alfonzo Dennard? It seems as though there's a strong show of support for rookie cornerback Alfonzo Dennard amongst the commenters. Dennard slipped to the seventh round of the draft after an arrest in the days leading up to it, and has missed all but two practices thus far in camp. Here's the skinny on my choosing Marquice Cole over Dennard: the Patriots are virtually locked into a top-3 cornerback trio of Kyle Arrington, Devin McCourty and Ras-I Dowling. Promising youngster Sterling Moore is my choice for the fourth corner, leaving the fifth spot up to Cole and Dennard. When constructing a roster, it's absolutely vital for a fifth cornerback and fifth safety to have strong special teams contributions. Dennard's issue in playing special teams stems from his lack of top-notch speed, something Cole has. Patriots fans will soon become familiar with Cole's ability to be a productive special teamer, the reason he makes my 53-man list.
3) Branch over Stallworth. In choosing six receivers, the most difficult selection was between Deion Branch and Donte' Stallworth. The two present a similar package insofar as they are veterans who know the system, but Branch, to me, has a couple of factors working in his favor. One, he's about as trusted of a receiver as Tom Brady has ever thrown to, and knows the offense backwards and forth. Additionally, he's the more productive player on the perimeter. The Patriots added Brandon Lloyd to be their ace in the hole on the perimeter, but having Branch around affords them another player who can work the sidelines in the Patriots hurry-up offense. When the team opposes man defense, having an outlet that can beat his opponent near the sideline is critically important. Stallworth's work has been more in the deep crossing and vertical game thus far in camp. It's a tight race, but Branch gets the nod in this view.