Dueling projections: Pats' roster (1.0)
Mike Reiss and Mike Rodak predict how the Patriots' roster will look come Sept. 12
Making a 53-man roster projection before the New England Patriots have played a preseason game is worthy of being flagged for a false start. There remain many moving parts with the team, and the picture continues to evolve.
But it is a fun exercise, forming some initial framework for how things might unfold. This figures to be the first of several "dueling" 53-man roster projections over the course of the preseason.
Patriots 53-man roster projection (1.0)
|Mike Reiss' projection||Mike Rodak's projection|
|Quarterback (3): Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett
||Quarterback (3): Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett
|Analysis: Always fun to watch Brady in practice, and the competition between Hoyer and Mallett has also been a treat. Mallett makes the deep ball look easy. This looks like one of the better quarterback situations in the NFL.
||Analysis: No surprises here.
|Running back (4): BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen
||Running back (5): BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Sammy Morris
|Analysis: The plan here is to keep veteran Kevin Faulk on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. His leadership and presence is going to be important from a locker-room-dynamic standpoint. Keeping five would be closer to the norm, but with a full load at receiver, this is an area that gets a trim.
||Analysis: While the Vereen injury situation remains one to watch, this group looks set. Morris provides a goal-line fullback and special-teams option. Veteran Kevin Faulk could begin the season on reserve/PUP, or retire.
|Wide receiver (7): Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Chad Ochocinco, Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman, Taylor Price, Matthew Slater
||Wide receiver (5): Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Chad Ochocinco, Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman
|Analysis: When Bill Belichick says "It will be interesting to see how things go when you take into account special-teams responsibilities, and competition overall as a receiving group," that could make it tougher on Price. But I'm not ready to give up on the 2010 third-round pick. With Branch and Welker in the last years of their contracts, the thinking here is striking a balance of short- and long-term. Slater gets a Larry Izzo-type spot, all with special teams in mind.
||Analysis: Second-year wideout Taylor Price is tops among roster-bubble players. Could he be an option on the trade market? Without the special-teams impact of Tate and Edelman, it is just hard to see the Patriots using a roster spot to redshirt him for a second season.
|Tight end (3): Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Lee Smith
||Tight end (3): Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Lee Smith
|Analysis: Been impressed with rookie free agent Will Yeatman and wouldn't be surprised if he emerges when all is said and done. Also wonder how losing Alge Crumpler will affect the always fragile locker-room dynamic; he was a captain last year and the Patriots have brought some interesting personalities into the room.
||Analysis: A fifth-round selection, Smith has held his own as a blocker this training camp while also flashing some surprising receiving ability. The chances of Alge Crumpler returning to this team when he regains full health seem slim.
|Offensive tackle (4): Matt Light, Sebastian Vollmer, Nate Solder, Steve Maneri
||Offensive tackle (4): Matt Light, Sebastian Vollmer, Nate Solder, Mark LeVoir
|Analysis: The final spot comes down to experience versus potential with LeVoir and Maneri. I like the upside of Maneri, who the Patriots thought enough of last year to give him a spot on the initial 53-man roster after claiming him on waivers from the Texans. He's athletic and tough.
||Analysis: No surprises here. LeVoir adds some veteran insurance but his roster spot is far from secure.
|Interior offensive line (5): Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, Dan Koppen, Ryan Wendell, Rich Ohrnberger
||Interior offensive line (5): Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen, Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell, Thomas Austin
|Analysis: Veteran Chris Morris and former practice-squad player Thomas Austin are on the edge here, with fifth-round draft choice Marcus Cannon likely to open the year on the reserve/non-football injury list.
||Analysis: The Wendell injury situation bears watching, as the Patriots risk losing their top interior backup. The last spot comes down to Austin and Rich Ohrnberger, who has looked overmatched at times this training camp. Fifth-round selection Marcus Cannon looks primed to begin the year on reserve/NFI.
|Defensive end (4): Jermaine Cunningham, Eric Moore, Shaun Ellis, Andre Carter
||Defensive end (4): Jermaine Cunningham, Eric Moore, Shaun Ellis, Andre Carter
|Analysis: Cunningham and Moore opened camp as the top tandem, and could line up at outside linebacker in a more traditional Patriots' style 3-4. Ellis and Carter have different styles of play, so every player in the group appears to complement each other well. Sixth-round pick Markell Carter develops on the practice squad.
||Analysis: Mark Anderson doesn't make it, with three similar pass-rush-oriented players already at the position. Sixth-round pick Markell Carter could make it to the practice squad.
|Defensive tackle (6): Vince Wilfork, Albert Haynesworth, Mike Wright, Myron Pryor, Kyle Love, Kade Weston
||Defensive tackle (6): Vince Wilfork, Albert Haynesworth, Mike Wright, Gerard Warren, Kyle Love, Myron Pryor
|Analysis: More depth comes with Ron Brace and Brandon Deaderick starting the year on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. Weston, a 2010 seventh-round pick, shows enough development to sneak onto the roster over Gerard Warren. Belichick has to be careful about getting too old with some of the recent signings.
||Analysis: One of the tougher positions to get a grasp on this training camp, with full health at the unit yet to be achieved. Ron Brace and Brandon Deaderick's best chances of sticking around in New England seem to be on the reserve/PUP list.
|Linebacker (5): Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Gary Guyton, Dane Fletcher, Rob Ninkovich
||Linebacker (6): Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Gary Guyton, Rob Ninkovich, Dane Fletcher, Tracy White
|Analysis: Veteran Tracy White, who finished second on the team in special-teams tackles in 2010, is the tough cut. The hope would be for Guyton and Fletcher to increase their special-teams contributions.
||Analysis: This group looks to fit well within the 4-3 scheme, with Ninkovich taking early-down reps at strongside linebacker, and Guyton and Fletcher working more out of the nickel package. Josh Barrett will need to get healthy to make a run at a special-teams spot on the roster.
|Cornerback (5): Devin McCourty, Leigh Bodden, Ras-I Dowling, Kyle Arrington, Darius Butler
||Cornerback (5): Devin McCourty, Leigh Bodden, Ras-I Dowling, Kyle Arrington, Malcolm Williams
|Analysis: While it's tempting to give rookie Malcolm Williams (seventh round) the final spot over Butler, there has been enough promise in camp, from this view, to keep working with the 2009 second-round pick. The hope would then be for Williams to land on the practice squad. Jonathan Wilhite ($1.2 million) is deemed too rich to keep around in a reserve role.
||Analysis: The time for Jonathan Wilhite and Darius Butler could be up in Foxboro. While Dowling still needs to get back to the practice field, his roster spot is secure. The Patriots drafted Williams for his special-teams presence, giving him the edge over Butler or Wilhite, who could be potential trade options.
|Safety (4): Brandon Meriweather, Patrick Chung, James Sanders, Sergio Brown
||Safety (4): Brandon Meriweather, Patrick Chung, James Sanders, Sergio Brown
|Analysis: Given some of the communication struggles with Meriweather, keeping Sanders around takes on added importance, even though from an economic standpoint ($2.8 million) he has a high price tag for a third option. Bret Lockett has had a good camp, but he's edged out by Brown.
||Analysis: Sanders hasn't helped his case for a roster spot by practicing only three times this training camp, but the Patriots have little else to turn to at this position. Brown gets the slight edge over Lockett as the special-teams presence at the position.
|Specialists (3): Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko, Matt Katula
||Specialists (3): Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko, Matt Katula
|Analysis: Katula keeping the long-snapping seat warm for Stephen Belichick in 2012? Joking. On a serious note, the field goal and snap-punt operation was solid in 2010 and it returns intact.
||Analysis: No surprises here, although watching linebacker Rob Ninkovich long-snap early in training camp must have made Katula uneasy as he stood on the sidelines in a T-shirt.