Checking the locks: How many open spots?

July, 12, 2014
Jul 12
5:00
AM ET
As part of this slow time on the NFL calendar, when we'll be taking a break to recharge for the 2014 season, we introduced the pre-produced "checking the locks" series in which we analyzed the players on the Patriots' roster who are "locks" to stick. Today is the final entry of the series, which recaps the "locks" to account for how many open spots are there for the taking:

OFFENSE

Sure-fire locks (15)
QB Tom Brady
QB Jimmy Garoppolo
RB Shane Vereen
RB James White
WR Julian Edelman
WR Aaron Dobson
TE Rob Gronkowski
TE Michael Hoomanawanui
LT Nate Solder
LG Logan Mankins
RT Sebastian Vollmer
OT Marcus Cannon
C Bryan Stork
G Jon Halapio
OT Cameron Fleming

Near locks (9)
QB Ryan Mallett
RB Stevan Ridley
RB Brandon Bolden
WR Kenbrell Thompkins
WR Josh Boyce
WR Brandon LaFell
WR Danny Amendola
FB James Develin
G Josh Kline

Quick-hit thoughts: With 24 offensive players falling into the category of lock or near-lock, it highlights how there aren't too many major roster-based questions at this time. An injury can always change the picture, as can a standout performance from an undrafted player who isn't currently on the radar.

DEFENSE

Sure-fire locks (16)
DT Vince Wilfork
DT Dominique Easley
DT Chris Jones
DE Chandler Jones
DE Rob Ninkovich
DE Zach Moore
LB Jerod Mayo
LB Dont'a Hightower
LB Jamie Collins
CB Darrelle Revis
CB Brandon Browner
CB Kyle Arrington
CB Alfonzo Dennard
CB Logan Ryan
S Devin McCourty
S Duron Harmon

Near locks (6)
DT Sealver Siliga
DT Tommy Kelly
DE Will Smith
DE Michael Buchanan
S Nate Ebner
S Jemea Thomas

Quick-hit thoughts: With 22 defenders falling into the category of "sure-fire lock" or "near lock," it is similar to the offense in the sense that most of the roster seems pretty well set. The backup linebacker spot is one area that seems to have the most possible outcomes, which brings the defensive numbers down a bit.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Sure-fire locks: K Stephen Gostkowski, P Ryan Allen, captain Matthew Slater

Quick-hit thoughts: Not much drama in this area, which is unlike 2013, when Allen successfully challenged incumbent Zoltan Mesko.

Overall, there were 49 players across the roster placed in the "sure-fire lock" or "near lock" categories, and all teams will carry a 53-man roster. If everyone's healthy, it provides a snapshot of the odds facing some of those players who are in the "trying to get in the door" category of this series.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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