Monday, April 30, 2012
Analyzing 2012 Patriots roster
By Mike Rodak
The Patriots made seven selections in the 2012 NFL draft, and here is a snapshot look at the roster (rookies in italics), not including undrafted free agents tight end Brad Herman and offensive linemen Jeremiah Warren and Markus Zusevics, who agreed to terms with the team but whose deals have not yet been announced:
Fullback Personnel:Spencer Larsen, Tony Fiammetta, Eric Kettani Quick hit: The first time in years the Patriots have invested this much into the position, expect at least one of the players here to make the roster. Larsen has positional versatility, having also played linebacker in Denver. How the Patriots use a fullback in their offense will be a storyline coming into this season.
Tight end Personnel:Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Daniel Fells Quick hit: Fells adds depth to a position that was thin in 2011, while undrafted free agents like Herman will supplement it going into training camp.
Offensive tackle Personnel:Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, Matt Kopa, Kyle Hix Quick hit: The retirement of Matt Light, although expected, thins this position to some extent, although the Patriots seem to be high on Cannon. Between Kopa, Hix, and undrafted signees like Zusevics, the Patriots will have young players competing for the potential fourth spot here.
"Light" defensive end/outside linebacker Personnel:Chandler Jones, Trevor Scott, Jake Bequette, Jermaine Cunningham, Markell Carter Quick hit: With free agent Andre Carter's return timetable from quadriceps surgery still up in the air, this position received an infusion of young talent through the draft. Former second-round pick Cunningham faces an uphill battle to make the roster in his third season. Scott is two seasons removed from a knee injury that diminished his production in 2011, and the Patriots seem to have eyed him more for his pass-rush potential than his ability to play special teams or as a stand-up linebacker.
"Big" linebacker/edge defender Personnel:Rob Ninkovich, Dont'a Hightower, Aaron Lavarias Quick hit: Ninkovich is a unique player who can play the edge in a 3-4, strong-side linebacker in a 4-3, and also be used as an edge rusher in a four-man line in a sub package. How the Patriots fit pieces like Ninkovich, Hightower, Jones, Scott, and Bequette into their defensive puzzle will be a major storyline heading into training camp. Hightower can just as easily fit into the "space" linebacker group, but also saw time as a down lineman in a rush package at Alabama.
Cornerback Personnel:Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Ras-I Dowling, Will Allen, Sterling Moore, Alfonzo Dennard, Marquice Cole Quick hit: There is the potential for depth here, but how the position shakes out at the top remains to be seen. Dowling could get another chance to play on the outside, likely shifting Arrington into more of a slot role. At this point, it does not seem probable that McCourty returns to safety, where he saw time late last season. Moore could be a player to watch as he comes off a strong end to his 2011 campaign.