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The Road to 53, Vol. 2

Posted by Greg A. Bedard  August 18, 2011 07:00 AM

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TAMPA - Had a late-night flight in advance of tonight's game, so this will have to suffice as the Patriots Daily Briefing.

Might as well get right to it. Here is the way I see the 53-man roster shaping up heading into the second exhibition game.

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Some notes:

  • As you see, the changes from the last time are in orange.
  • I actually did this version last night in preparation for the story that appears in today's paper and, believe it or not, I actually did have Mark LeVoir on the cut list this time around. The writing was on the wall in the last game, and with Matt Light rounding into the health, the Patriots have their four tackles and won't be needing any more. They did LeVoir a favor by not waiting for the 75-man cutdown. He has a much better shot at finding a new home.
  • This time around, I made determinations on some of the injuries. Mostly because I got sick of staring at their names. So Shane Vereen is in at running back, and Sammy Morris is out. I just don't see how they can carry four, unless they go with two tight ends at the start of the season and either re-sign Alge Crumpler, or hope one of their three tight ends make it to the practice squad.
  • And if Brandon Tate is healthy, I don't have him on the squad. He doesn't give enough. Taylor Price is a better receiver. Matthew Slater is better on special teams. Vereen could handle kickoffs, which he did at Cal. But if Tate takes the field and shows improvement, this could definitely change. He needs to get out there.
  • The Patriots usually carry nine offensive linemen, and I see it no differently this time around. Nine is about the minimum. The tackles are set. At guard/center, either Ryan Wendell is healthy and the G/C swing guy or he's on IR and Rich Ohrnberger and either Marcus Cannon or Thomas Austin round out the guards. If Wendell is healthy, it's between Cannon, if he gets off PUP, or Ohrnberger for that final spot.
  • Giving Will Yeatman the nod for the third tight end spot right now. He's better all around than Lee Smith at this point. Think Smith has the best chance at making it through waivers to the practice squad since he's more one dimensional, but he might not. I just don't see four sticking. Where else are you going to cut?
  • No changes on the defensive line, although Gerard Warren continues to be the final man cut and I don't like doing it. I just don't see where else you can cut on the defensive side of the ball. That is basically bare bones for every place other than the defensive line. Things could definitely change if the Patriots get active on the trade market with some of their defensive linemen. I see that happening at some point in the next 10 days.
  • Leaving special teamers Tracy White and Niko Koutouvides off because I think Fletcher, Ninkovich, Guyton and Tarpinian (if his injury isn't long term, and it could be) bring enough in that area. And if injuries hit the inside twosome of Spikes and Fletcher, Mayo can always fill in. There's some versatility in that group.
  • Proclaiming Ras-I Dowling healthy and on the roster. Don't like doing it because no one is talking about his injury. Malcolm Williams had one very nice special teams tackle against the Jaguars, but that was it. The Patriots do like him on special teams. I do think there is a three-man race between Butler, Wilhite and Williams for the final corner spot. May the best man win over the next two weeks.
  • At the safety position, I think it is possible Brandon Meriweather gets cut or traded but only if Sergio Brown proves to be a force. Expect him to get a long look tonight. If Meriweather stays -- and I think much of what has gone on the past two weeks is just to give him a kick in the rear (it seemed to work on Tuesday; he was hustling all over the field), I think the Patriots consider making James Sanders a cap casualty. He has the 10th highest cap number on the team, according to the esteemed Miguel over at patscap.com. Even though Sanders is a great leader, his cap number just doesn't seem to match up to the production. It does if Meriweather departs. Lockett and Barrett both have potential. The Patriots really like Lockett on special teams.
  • One final thought that I don't know what to make of: Every time I do this 53, I end up staring at Brian Hoyer's name and wondering what if the Patriots liked Ryan Mallett enough -- and the feeling here is he's going to get a terrific chance to showcase himself tonight -- could they go with two with one being a rookie with no OTAs? Now, my mind tells me that's crazy because Hoyer's trade value now would not be as high as it could be in the off-season, or even the hope that a team signs him as a restricted free agent and the Patriots pick up a first- or second-round pick in compensation. Some of you may be saying, 'That's also crazy because Hoyer is better. He showed it the other night.' I don't agree with that. I think that Mallett is charging hard on Hoyer and may soon surpass him in terms of potential on-field production -- only if Mallett plays well tonight. I thought Hoyer was pretty good against the Jaguars, but I don't think he's going to get appreciably better. He's a good leader, but accuracy has always been the knock on him, and he make a few poor reads here and there. What if Mallett is the guy that gives the Patriots the best chance to win should Tom Brady go down? Do you just keep Mallett around? Teams have gone with less at backup quarterback. When Aaron Rodgers, who had a questionable injury history at that point in his young career, took over for Brett Favre, the Packers only kept Matt Flynn. Mallett is much further ahead than Flynn. Look at what the Colts keep behind Peyton Manning. I keep coming back to Hoyer's name because I think roster spots on this team, especially, are very precious because the Patriots are that deep. There are a lot of good players on this roster, and some are going to get cut. There might be more value keeping someone else at another position. The Patriots would have to find a decent prospect to train on practice squad. Now, don't go off the rails about this. I don't want to see any Tweets that say "Bedard thinks Hoyer is going to get cut or traded." That's not what I'm saying. I'm just talking out loud, and I'm probably dead wrong. It's just the train of thought I haven't been able to shake the past week.

Thought or comments? Send me an email at gbedard@globe.com, or hit me up on Twitter @Greg_A_Bedard.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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