In my second projection of the Patriots’ 53-man roster, there are a few slight changes for the team in key position groups. But what’s more, there is a conscious consideration of injuries and how they are already affecting the team through the first preseason game. See who’s up and who’s down since last week.
– By Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff
No changes here. All three quarterbacks will remain with the team, with Brian Hoyer still firmly the the No. 2 QB behind Tom Brady. Ryan Mallett still has a long way to go.
Keep (3 QBs / 3 players total ): Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett
We’re still sure the number of fullbacks the team is set on having will adversely affect the number of running backs on the roster, despite Tony Fiammetta leaving the team. Stevan Ridley (pictured) and Shane Vereen still look like they are going to split carries, while Danny Woodhead is positioned to reamin. Brandon Bolden is battling for a spot. But as of right now, we think he makes it.
Keep (4 RBs / 7 players total): Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead, Brandon Bolden.
Spencer Larsen (pictured) and Eric Kettani are the only fullbacks left after Tony Fiammetta left the squad. And with Larsen unable to practice or play currently, it’s given the Patriots plenty of time to evaluate the converted running back Kettani. I’m not convinced that Larsen can remain with the team if he can’t get on the field. Aaron Hernandez’s ability to line up at fullback is interesting and may make for a more dynamic flair in the offense instead of the inexperienced Kettani.
Keep (1 FB / 8 players total): Eric Kettani
Donte’ Stallworth (left) continues to impress in training camp and now in game situations for the Patriots. He is certainly battling with veteran Deion Branch for a spot on a team that will likely only carry six players at the position unless the team backs away from keeping a fullback or an extra tight end. I just don’t see that happening.
Keep (6 WRs / 14 players total): Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, Julian Edelman, Donte’ Stallworth, Matthew Slater
Without a doubt, tight ends Rob Gronkowski (87) and Aaron Hernandez (81) are locks on this team. It’s free agent signee Visanthe Shiancoe, who didn’t play in the team’s first preseason game against the New Orleans Saints, that is questionable. Rookie Tyler Urban and converted defensive end Alex Silvestro are both gunning for a spot on this team. We’re unsure if either of those guys can compete with a healthy Shiancoe. But is he healthy?
Keep (3 TEs, 17 total players): Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Visanthe Shiancoe.
After one preseason game, the feel for the Patriots’ offensive line is much easier after seeing the team’s rotation. You can tell which guys actually have a shot and who doesn’t. The one change here is Donald Thomas, who initially wasn’t kept because of Robert Gallery. But after Gallery’s retirement, that gives him a better opportunity to contribute on this team.
Keep (9 offensive linemen / 26 players total): Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen, Dan Connolly, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, Donald Thomas, Ryan Wendell, Kyle Hix.
Chandler Jones (pictured) had a great outing in his first preseason game against the New Orleans Saints. We got to see him work in a three-point stance and stand up and rush the quarterback. And since the first edition, we’ve seen some players (Trevor Scott) see a dip in repititions and others get more.
Keep (5 DEs / 31 players total): Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, Trevor Scott, Jermaine Cunningham, Jake Bequette
Between Vince Wilfork (pictured) 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
With Dane Fletcher’s injury, and possible placement on injured reserve, the middle linebacker spot is just slightly “iffier’’ given Brandon Spikes’s own issues staying healthy. Moving over from the outside will likely be rookie Dont’a Hightower (pictured, right) if Fletcher and Spikes are out. Mike Rivera, a former practice squad player, is also likely to get an opportunity. This position will likely continue to change leading up to the unveiling of the final cuts. Hightower we’ll classify as an outside ‘backer. Keep (2 MLBs / 38 players total): Brandon Spikes, Mike Rivera.
Dane Fletcher’s injury will directly affect the outside linebackers. Dont’a Hightower will move into the middle if Brandon Spikes is injured and Bobby Carpenter will now get more snaps on the strong side. But for our purposes, we’ll continue to view Hightower as the team’s strongside linebacker. Keep (4 OLBs / 42 players total ): Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower, Bobby Carpenter, Tracy White
Steve Gregory (pictured) instantly boosted the confidence of the Patriots secondary when he came up with an interception off a tipped ball against the New Orleans Saints. Along with Patrick Chung, rookie Tavon Wilson and James Ihedigbo, the secondary appears to be solid at this juncture. Keep (4 safeties / 46 players total): Steve Gregory, Patrick Chung, James Ihedigbo, Tavon Wilson.
Kyle Arrington has certainly done his part to hold onto his position as the team’s starting right cornerback. It appears the team is utilizing Ras-I Dowling on the outside when the team goes into a nickel situation and shifting Arrington inside. Sterling Moore has also shown he’s serviceable in more than nickel and dime packages, working as either the right or left corner. Keep: (4 cornerbacks / 50 players total): Devin McCourty, Ras-I Dowling, Kyle Arrington, Sterling Moore.
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.