New England Patriots: Final 53-man roster projection

DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 25: Chris Hogan (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 25: Chris Hogan (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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DETROIT, MI – AUGUST 25: Kenny Golladay
DETROIT, MI – AUGUST 25: Kenny Golladay /

Linebacker (6)

  • Dont’a Hightower
  • Shea McClellin
  • Kyle Van Noy
  • Harvey Langi
  • David Harris
  • Elandon Roberts

With Hightower seeing more time on the edge, veteran linebacker David Harris will take over as starting middle linebacker. Elandon Roberts will serve as the second-string inside backer behind Harris while Kyle Van Noy and Shea McClellin rotate on the outside. McClellin, like Hightower, could see more involvement as an edge rusher, filling the void left open by Ninkovich’s retirement.

Rookie Harvey Langi, who joined the Patriots as an undrafted free agent, is another suitor for Ninkovich’s former role. In the preseason, Langi was experimented with on the edge versus the Houston Texans, consistently creating penetration despite failing to finish with a sack.

Cornerback (5)

  • Stephon Gilmore
  • Malcolm Butler
  • Eric Rowe
  • Jonathan Jones
  • Cyrus Jones

The one-two punch of Patriots cornerbacks Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore was already among the best in the NFL before Eric Rowe boosted his stock in training camp and the preseason. Rowe will join Butler and Gilmore to fill New England’s top three corner spots, adding more venom to New England’s deadly secondary.

Second-year pass defenders Jonathan Jones and Cyrus Jones will seal the back side of the cornerback depth chart. Each Jones possesses the ability to contribute on special teams. Jonathan served as a gunner last season and will continue to chase punts until Matthew Slater returns from injury.

Cyrus has upside as a return man that is unmatched by anyone on the Patriots’ roster. Despite the hatred from naysayers, he’s made enormous strides throughout the preseason and rightfully earned another year to prove, and reach his potential. Cyrus was injured in the final preseason game against the Giants which could hurt his chances to make the team. If he is badly injured like it appears, changes will have to be made.