Dueling projections: Pats' roster (v. 4.0)
Mike Reiss and Mike Rodak predict how the Patriots' roster will look come Sept. 12
Of all the roster moves the Patriots have made over the last few days, the release of safety James Sanders was most surprising. He had been a lock on previous 53-man projections as a steady presence along with Brandon Meriweather and Patrick Chung.
So when looking at ESPN's fourth verion of dueling roster projections, the safety position now has a new look. Meriweather, Chung and second-year man Sergio Brown top the depth chart, and now a fourth spot could be open for either Josh Barrett or James Ihedigbo.
Barrett was claimed on waivers from the Broncos last year but spent the season on injured reserve. He has a background with special-teams coach Scott O'Brien when the two were in Denver. Meanwhile, Ihedigbo played on the "Big 4" special-teams units (kickoff coverage, kickoff return, punt coverage, punt return) Saturday, a sign that he could become a core special-teamer.
Patriots 53-man roster projection (v. 4.0)
|Mike Reiss' projection||Mike Rodak's projection|
|Quarterback (3): Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett
||Quarterback (3): Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett
|Analysis: When the Patriots drafted Mallett in the third round, Bill Belichick made the point that a depth chart that goes three deep is safer than what the team had the last two years, with just Brady and Hoyer.
||Analysis: No change from last week.
|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: Kevin Faulk said he would probably land on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. This is a bit thin if Ridley isn't ready to start the season and could lead to Morris sticking.
||Analysis: Morris returns to the roster in this projection, providing a veteran leadership presence to the offense. Ridley has been out of practice for two weeks and his injury remains one to watch.
|Wide receiver (6): Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Chad Ochocinco, Julian Edelman, Taylor Price, Matthew Slater
||Wide receiver (6): Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Chad Ochocinco, Julian Edelman, Taylor Price, Matthew Slater
|Analysis: After three weeks of keeping seven receivers on the roster, the number is trimmed to six, with the Patriots exploring any possible trade interest in Brandon Tate.
||Analysis: It's the end of the road for Brandon Tate, who hasn't been able to find a fit in the offense and has seen his effectiveness as a kick returner diminished by new NFL kickoff rules.
|Tight end (3): Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Will Yeatman
||Tight end (3): Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Will Yeatman
|Analysis: An ideal situation would be if fifth-round draft choice Lee Smith and Garrett Mills both return on the practice squad.
||Analysis: No changes from last week. Yeatman saw plenty of action in Saturday's preseason game in Detroit and looks more and more like the undrafted free agent to make the roster this season.
|Offensive tackle (4): Matt Light, Sebastian Vollmer, Nate Solder, Steve Maneri
||Offensive tackle (4): Matt Light, Sebastian Vollmer, Nate Solder, Steve Maneri
|Analysis: Has been straightforward since the team released Mark LeVoir last week, and looks like an ideal situation with Light holding things down at left tackle until Solder is ready.
||Analysis: No changes from last week.
|Guard/center (4): Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly, Dan Koppen, Ryan Wendell
||Guard/center (5): Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen, Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell, Rich Ohrnberger
|Analysis: Fifth-round draft choice Marcus Cannon still has limitations and figures to open the year on the reserve/non-football injury list. A veteran signing could be on the radar, while the plan would be to load up on the practice squad with a few blockers.
||Analysis: No changes from last week. Injuries are a concern here, with Connolly and Wendell out of practice on Tuesday.
|Defensive end (5): Jermaine Cunningham, Eric Moore, Shaun Ellis, Andre Carter, Mark Anderson
||Defensive end (4): Jermaine Cunningham, Eric Moore, Shaun Ellis, Andre Carter
|Analysis: Still hard to project how all the pieces fit together. While others have Anderson on the bubble, he sticks here as a sub rusher in the Tully Banta-Cain role.
||Analysis: No changes from last week. Pass-rusher Mark Anderson is a tough cut.
|Defensive tackle (6): Vince Wilfork, Albert Haynesworth, Gerard Warren, Mike Wright, Myron Pryor, Kyle Love
||Defensive tackle (5): Vince Wilfork, Albert Haynesworth, Mike Wright, Kyle Love, Myron Pryor
|Analysis: Last week, it came down to a decision between Warren and Wright. This time around, both find a way to stick.
||Analysis: The return of Haynesworth and Wright to practice leaves veteran Gerard Warren as the odd man out. This is a deep rotation, but tweaks could still be made.
|Linebacker (6): Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Gary Guyton, Dane Fletcher, Rob Ninkovich, Tracy White
||Linebacker (6): Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Gary Guyton, Rob Ninkovich, Dane Fletcher, Tracy White
|Analysis: White, the speedy veteran linebacker who finished second on the team in special-teams tackles last year, earns a spot as a "Big 4" player.
||Analysis: No changes from last week. Spikes and Fletcher return to practice on Tuesday, which leaves veteran pickups Niko Koutouvides and Ricky Brown off the roster.
|Cornerback (5): Devin McCourty, Leigh Bodden, Ras-I Dowling, Darius Butler, Kyle Arrington
||Cornerback (5): Devin McCourty, Leigh Bodden, Ras-I Dowling, Kyle Arrington, Darius Butler
|Analysis: Thursday night could be the first look at Dowling, the second-round pick from Virginia who missed the start of camp with a hamstring injury. Bodden's health is a key, as he's been out of practice since the second preseason game at Tampa.
||Analysis: While Jonathan Wilhite is released, Leigh Bodden remains out of practice. Darius Butler sneaks back onto the roster, but his position on the squad is tenuous at best.
|Safety (4): Brandon Meriweather, Patrick Chung, Sergio Brown, Josh Barrett
||Safety (4): Brandon Meriweather, Patrick Chung, Sergio Brown, Josh Barrett
|Analysis: Chung was chosen as one of the six players to address the crowd at the team's Kickoff Gala on Thursday night, which one might say reflects the team positioning him for more of a leadership role on the club. Barrett and James Ihedigbo go head-to-head for a fourth spot. Both are known for their special-teams play.
||Analysis: The surprising release of James Sanders looks to be a vote of confidence for Sergio Brown, while allowing Barrett to make the squad as a special-teamer. James Ihedigbo loses out in one of the more competitive position battles on the roster.
|Specialists (3): Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko, James Dearth
||Specialists (3): Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko, James Dearth
|Analysis: The field goal operation undergoes its third change in less than two years, with Dearth taking over the long snapping duties from Matt Katula, who had replaced Jake Ingram last year.
||Analysis: Dearth replaces Matt Katula, who was released on Monday.