The Road to 53, Vol. 4

Just two changes since Saturday’s version, and even those are very tentative.

Here’s what we have going into tonight’s exhibition finale:

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  • For this version, we opted to keep RB Sammy Morris over third TE Will Yeatman. We did that because there’s just too much unknown with the health of Shane Vereen, especially, and Stevan Ridley. Morris, who is still on many of the Patriots’ special teams (Ridley was on as well before getting hurt), provides a veteran security blanket in case things really go wrong. He can play HB, FB, and special teams. He is solely on because of injury concerns. If everyone was healthy, he wouldn’t be needed. But it’s getting too close to the opener and we’re a little afraid of leaving too much to chance with two rookies that haven’t gotten enough reps. But there are still 11 days until the opener. That’s a lot of practice time.
  • I like Yeatman, think he has potential to be a solid No. 2/blocking TE, but he’s not ready. His blocking has been very inconsistent. In short yardage, we would rather run gameday swing tackle Nate Solder into the game. And the former tight end could also be the new Mike Vrabel in goal-line situations. The Patriots would hope they can add both Yeatman and Lee Smith to the practice squad to cover themselves in case of injury. And Alge Crumpler (shoulder) could return at some point.
  • In our view, the last couple spots on the roster come down to fifth RB, third TE, seventh WR, sixth DT, third ILB and a fifth S or sixth CB. We see three spots up for grabs among those six positions, and it’s really about how the Patriots see the potential of some of those players, and what the injury situation truly is. If we knew what Bill Belichick knows about the injury reports, maybe we would have a better clue. Right now our best guess is a fifth RB (Morris), sixth DT (Gerard Warren) and a third ILB (Tracy White). If the Patriots want more out of special teams, then it would seem that Warren’s spot is tenuous. Hard to keep six at a position where you get zero special team contributions.
  • Brandon Tate didn’t show us enough against the Lions to warrant a spot at this time, but it was his first action. He definitely could stick for two reasons: 1) Wes Welker and Deion Branch are entering the final years of their contract and the Patriots may want to protect themselves, and it’s uncertain what will happen with Chad Ochocinco; and 2) he’s the only vertical threat on this team. Is Tate a legitimate threat to be respected by defenses when he comes into games? We don’t think so, that’s why it’s time to move on. If worse-case scenario plays out, can’t the Patriots draft wide receivers with two picks in the first two rounds? Or sign and/or trade for some receivers? Is Tate protecting the team that much? We don’t think so. If you do elect to keep Tate, where do you steal a spot?

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