Aug 20, 2012; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches from the sideline as they take on the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter of the preseason game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE

New England Patriots Projected 53-man Roster

With all the projected 53-man rosters out there for the New England Patriots after two preseason games and training camp had finished, I have decided to throw my hat into the ring and take a stab at this projection business myself. Please let me have it in the comments section if you feel that I have erred.

Quarterbacks (3)

Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett

Pretty obvious, all three guys are staying on the roster and both of the backups provide their own source of value for the team.

Running backs (4)

Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead, Jeff Demps

The Patriots invested heavily in Demps (for a UDFA, at least), and he’s their kick-off returner. Ridley and Vereen will be playing large roles for the offense, and Woodhead is a good change-of-pace back to have on the roster. The omission on this list is Brandon Bolden, whose play has slipped as training camp has wore on. He’s a tough cut and is right on the bubble, but he’s a lock to make the practice squad anyway.

Wide Receivers (6)

Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney, Julian Edelman, Deion Branch, Matthew Slater

Deion Branch completely outshined Dont’e Stallworth against the Philadelphia Eagles, to the point where Stallworth’s athleticism and speed just don’t matter anymore. Stallworth didn’t get open and had six chance to make plays and only came up with one catch. Branch’s route-running was great, and he had a good camp. Stallworth, on the other hand, was busy dropping passes during camp. He’s athletic, but I’ll take Branch’s surer hands and route-running at this point.

Tight Ends (3)

Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Daniel Fells

With Visanthe Shiancoe still out with a hamstring injury, it looks more and more like the New England Patriots will be carrying three tight ends on their roster going into the season, with Alex Silvestro on the practice squad. Fells is finally healthy, and he’s a more effective player than Shiancoe due to his run blocking.

Tackles (3)

Sebastian Vollmer, Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon

This is a position that I wish had more depth at, but Matt Kopa is a tough cut and will make the practice squad. Solder will develop as the season wears on, and Sebastian Vollmer is still one of the best right tackles in the league when healthy (please stay healthy).

Guards (4)

Logan Mankins, Brian Waters, Dan Connolly, Nick McDonald

This is a great looking group of guards, and I’m assuming that Brian Waters is still on the team right now. I mean, his locker is still there. McDonald brings a ton of versatility to the Pats offensive line, while the other three guys are proven players in this league.

Center (2)

Ryan Wendell, Dan Koppen

After a tough fight, it looks like Dan Koppen is staying on the team, but I think Ryan Wendell ends up starting. He looked good in camp.

Pass rushers (DE/rush LB) (6)

Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Jake Bequette, Jermaine Cunningham, Trevor Scott, Justin Francis

I still can’t believe Cunningham was ever on the bubble, he has a lot of promise and has been a monster in the preseason. I mean, he had three quarterback hits in that Eagles game, including the nasty one that took Michael Vick out (sad to see him injured, happy to see JC make a hit like that). Scott had three quarterback hits of his own in the first preseason game and is a good pass rushing specialist. I really like Justin Francis and think he is a high upside player, and it’s fine to have six of these players with Ninkovich being able to play as a down linebacker. Francis can also play on the inside, and I really like what he showed during camp.

Linebackers (6)

Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Dont’a Hightower, Bobby Carpenter, Jeff Tarpinian, Niko Koutivides

I know leaving off Tracy White is a controversial thing, but I just think that both Tarpinian and Koutivides offer more than White as down linebackers and are also good special teams players in their own right. Tarp and Koutivides led the Patriots in tackles in the first two games respectively, and I just think that they are better true linebackers than White.

Cornerbacks (5)

Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Ras-I Dowling, Sterling Moore, Alfonzo Dennard

Now that Alfonzo Dennard is healthy, the cornerback is going to be on the roster. I left off Marquice Cole in order to make space for Justin Francis, but it’s a tough choice that I may have gotten wrong. I just don’t think Cole makes the cut. He plays well on special teams, but he’s not going to make the 53-man roster on that.

Safeties (4)

Steve Gregory, Patrick Chung, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner

I’ll take Ebner’s upside over James Ihedigbo any day, because the former New York Jets safety is awful in coverage. The Patriots already have a very good run-stopping safety in Chung, and Ihedigbo isn’t even all that good against the run either. Ebner has to make the roster. He is great on special teams and has more upside than Ihedigbo. Besides, I think he’s better than him in coverage as a sixth-round rookie.

Specialists (3)

Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko, Danny Aiken

These three are locks.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.

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