After a full week of training camp, this is a good time to assess which players are likely to make the Patriots’ 53-man roster. Forget for a moment who has practice squad eligibility and who is or isn’t injured, these are the guys we think that the team will be counting on this season.
– By Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff
All three quarterbacks will remain with the team, with Brian Hoyer as the No. 2 behind Tom Brady. But that doesn’t mean we won’t see more and more of Ryan Mallett in preseason after getting increased reps in training camp.
Keep (3 QBs / 3 players total ): Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett
With four running backs in camp, the Patriots can surprise again by keeping each of them going into the regular season. We’re sure the number of fullbacks the team is set on having will adversely affect the number of running backs remaining. Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen are likely to split carries, while Danny Woodhead and Brandon Bolden (pictured) are battling for a place on the team.
Keep (4 RBs / 7 players total): Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead, Brandon Bolden.
So far, it’s been a tossup between fullbacks Tony Fiammetta (left) and Spencer Larsen (right). The two are battling for a spot on a team that will likely only carry one fullback. Eric Kettani, a converted running back, is trailing both players after having a tough time in blocking drills in camp. Fortunately for Larsen, he’s been able to stay on the field.
Keep (1 FB / 8 players total): Spencer Larsen
The Patriots will have a much improved wide receiver group with Brandon Lloyd (left) on board this season. He’s dazzled fans at camp as well as coaches with his acrobatic catches. But so has Donte’ Stallworth (right) and veteran holdover Julian Edelman. This is truly a contested position.
Keep (6 WRs / 14 players total): Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, Julian Edelman, Donte’ Stallworth, Matthew Slater
It’s easier to get a sense of the Patriots’ offensive line with so few of the team’s starters available to practice or in camp. Logan Mankins and Sebastian Vollmer are rehabbing while Brian Waters has been absent. In their place, a select few have been in the rotation. What’s been surprising is newcomer Darrion Weems and his work after getting pulled one day into camp.
Keep (9 offensive linemen / 23 players total): Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen, Dan Connolly, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, Robert Gallery, Ryan Wendell, Kyle Hix
Of all the position groups, this may be the easiest to configure. The Patriots will likely add one more tight end for this year’s team, a jump from just two a year prior. That makes room for newcomer Visanthe Shiancoe, who easily has the talent over rookie free agent Tyler Urban and converted defensive end Alex Silvestro.
Keep (3 TEs / 26 players total): Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez. Visanthe Shiancoe
Of the Patriots who are working at defensive end, free agent signee Trevor Scott (pictured) has surprised the most, flashing speed and exhibiting the versatility led to praise by coach Bill Belichick. But we’ve also seen a resurgence from Jermaine Cunningham while rookie Chandler Jones has been working hard to secure a role on the first team, where we project him to stay.
Keep (5 DEs / 31 players total): Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, Trevor Scott, Jermaine Cunningham, Jake Bequette
Between Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love, the Patriots will be all right. But add Brandon Deaderick, Jonathan Fanene and Ron Brace into the mix, and you have a number of tackles for the Patriots to cycle through.
Keep (5 defensive tackles / 36 players total): Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love, Brandon Deaderick, Jonathan Fanene, Ron Brace
Whoever backs up Jerod Mayo is destined for special teams duty this season. One thing we’re starting to learn is that rookie Dont’a Hightower will not be that guy. Hightower is working his way into a starting role on the strong side. Bobby Carpenter has taken his snaps on both sides.
Keep (4 OLBs / 40 players total ): Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower, Bobby Carpenter, Tracy White
Brandon Spikes is the middle linebacker of choice for the Patriots and Dane Fletcher (pictured) is the first guy you want to come off the bench in his place in case of an injury or otherwise.
Keep (2 MLBs / 42 players total): Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher
Ras-I Dowling and Kyle Arrington are battling for the No. 1 right cornerback spot. And while that has been the “sexy” observation of camp, the real battle is happening in the margins. So far through camp, Sterling Moore has proved he still belongs.
Keep: (4 cornerbacks / 46 players total): Devin McCourty, Ras-I Dowling, Kyle Arrington, Sterling Moore
Steve Gregory has brought a veteran presence to the Patriots’ secondary while Patrick Chung will focus on being the coach in the outfield. There will likely only be one more player to serve as a member of this group’s core circle. That third wheel will be important in case of injury and James Ihedigbo (pictured) seems primed for the job.
Keep (4 safeties / 50 players total): Steve Gregory, Patrick Chung, James Ihedigbo, Tavon Wilson
This is a pretty straightforward group. There won’t be any changes heading into the season.
Keep (3 special teams / 53 players total): Stephen Gostkowski, Zoltan Mesko, Danny Aiken