With a few weeks of camp and a preseason game in the books, now seems as good a time as any to try and project who will make the final 53-man roster for the New England Patriots. As I went through all of the names and positions, I came to this conclusion: This is hard! This may be the toughest roster projection I’ve ever had to do, and this is likely a tough roster for Bill Belichick to shave down to 53 players. The dynamic has changed on defense with the Pats running more four-man fronts, and they have loaded up on the defensive linemen. One challenge I struggled with was balancing veteran defensive linemen with the younger players, and I tried not to get too old at the position. But it was tough.
Without further ado, let’s go to my roster projection, at least for now
No surprises here. The Pats could have the best QB situation in the entire NFL.
Running Backs (4)
Kevin Faulk opens the season on the PUP list. I contemplated throwing Vereen on that list as well and keeping Sammy Morris, but Vereen looks close to returning.
Wide Receivers (7)
Slater makes the squad by virtue of his value on special teams. I almost cut Tate, and he could see himself on the outside looking in if he doesn’t get back on the field and show his value as a receiver. Being a return man doesn’t hold the water it used to with the new kick-off rules.
Tight Ends (3)
No surprises here.
Offensive Linemen (9)
Ohrnberger and Wendell could see their spots taken by some of the younger players, like Thomas Austin. However, their ability to play multiple positions along the line saves them, for now. Marcus Cannon starts the year on the non-football injury/PUP list.
Defensive Linemen (10)
Like I said above, this was the toughest position to project. Ron Brace and Brandon Deaderick start the season on the PUP list in this scenario. Gerard Warren was a tough cut, but with Anderson showing his pass-rush abilities in the last preseason game and trying to keep the line from getting too old, Warren was the odd man out. He could make his way back in if Mike Wright can’t go.
Again, no surprises here other than Dane Fletcher showing as much progress as he did in the preseason opener. He started at MLB and called the plays on defense. He also made some nice plays. He could find himself rotating in with the starting unit.
Dowling needs to get on the field or he could start the season on PUP. Butler’s a tough keep, but there’s not much else and he does have the physical tools, he just hasn’t been able to show it yet. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Pats scour the cut lists for help here, especially if Dowling can’t go.
Sanders is another guy who needs to get himself on the field, or he could start the year on PUP. Meriweather is a wild card at this point and his play is certainly under the microscope. This is another area we could see the Pats looking for in the cut lists.
If the Patriots need a roster spot and Katula continues to struggle with his snaps, it’s possible he’s lopped off and someone like Rob Ninkovich, who has worked at long snapper, takes over those duties.