It is that time of year again.
Time to attempt the impossible. Predict Bill Belichick’s final 53-man roster. Rarely does anybody get this right, but that is part of the fun. There are a lot of interesting positional battles that we will have to watch when the New England Patriots open up training camp, and many of them will affect the final cuts.
Here we go:
I don’t think there will be much debate here. The Pats tried to move Mallett earlier in the offseason, but no one wanted to take the risk. So it looks like Mallett will be playing out the last year of his contract in Foxboro.
Running Backs: (5)
This is another position that looks to be set as we move towards training camp. Ridley and Vereen are firmly entrenched as the starters, while Bolden and White will be fighting for that valuable third spot. The Patriots are stacked in the backfield, and I think they will have a productive 2014 season.
Wide Receivers: (7)
Seven may seem like a big number for the wide receivers group, but let’s remember that Slater really isn’t a wideout. He is one of the best special teams players in the league, but rarely plays on offense. So it really is six receivers kept, which I feel is a good number. Boyce and Thompkins will have to fight with rookie Jeremy Gallon for that final spot, but ultimately, I don’t think Gallon brings enough to the table to slide in on the final roster.
Tight Ends: (3)
The only really debate here is Jones, or fellow rookie Asa Watson. I don’t know much about either of these two, but Jones’ amazing physical traits have me thinking that he can just edge Watson for a spot on this team. Hopefully Gronk’s knee is healthy enough for him to start week one. If not, Hooman will be trying to lead this bunch for a little while.
Offensive Line: (8)
Dan Connolly will be on the outside looking in come September, as I think he will be pushed out by Stork, and Halapio. Connolly is getting way too much money right now, and when you combine that with his declining productivity, he will be out of New England soon. Wendell will barely sneak in, because I don’t think Bill Belichick is comfortable handing the center position over to a rookie right now. But Stork will certainly push the veteran.
Defensive Line: (10)
An underrated aspect of this Pats defense is the front four. They are talented, and there is plenty of quality depth this time around. Wilfork and Kelly are the tough veterans, while Easley and Jones bring that young explosiveness that they desperately need. It is tough leaving Armond Armstead off of this list, but we honestly haven’t seen the guy for so long, I can’t bring myself to give him a spot. If he proves he has the talent to make the team in camp, then I will have to revise this. But until then, he is off the team.
A talented, but thin position. Beaharnais and Anderson are the only two guys that I think have enough skill to backup the starting trio, which is something that may end up hurting New England in 2014.
Brandon Browner is suspended for the first four games of the season, so that is why he isn’t currently on this projection. The only debate here is putting Justin Green in, and I am really 50-50 on this. But I have liked what I have seen from Green in the past, particularly last preseason, where he impressed me with his tight man coverage skills. He may not get a lot of playing time with this group, but he will earn a spot on this team.
The only reason I am including Chung here is because the Pats can’t go into the season with only three safeties (two of them very young), and he will probably only be on the field in garbage time. But other than that, this is a good, solid position for the Patriots.
Special Teams: (3)
Nothing new here. Very stable group heading into the regular season.